I was lucky enough to find a promotional copy of Nick Sagan‘s first novel, Idlewild, in a local used book store and purchase it on a whim. Before it had been released to the public I was reading one of the most remarkable works of fiction I’d ever encountered. The characters were realistic and well developed, the dialogue impeccable, the plot sharp, compelling and inventive and the overall fluidity of the writing inviting of page turning. Idlewild was a dark, fresh and captivating fusion of genres (though primarily science fiction) that, for me, did more to invigorate an interest in speculative fiction than any other book released that year.

Ten children are about to come of age. One of them, a young man, is suddenly startled awake. He has no memory. His surroundings mean nothing to him. All he knows for certain is that someone is trying to kill him.
Unsure whom he can trust, he is reacquainted with his peers, all of whom are being trained at a unique school run by the enigmatic Maestro. As he tries to uncover the identity of his would-be killer, it becomes clear that the ramifications of his investigation are far greater than he could ever have imagined – that it’s more, much more, than just his life that is at stake.
Fierce, smart and stylish in equal measure, Idlewild fuses imagination with wit to produce an unforgettable debut.

I recently reread Idlewild and was hit with a similar freshness. When I began Nick’s second novel, Edenborn, I was aware of a definite evolution in his craft. This book was stong in all the ways that Idlewild was and expanded in character depth, themes and narrative structure. Edenborn was more than I was expecting and a true joy to read, certainly one of the most rewarding works I’ve read in recent years.

It is eighteen years after Idlewild and the survivors are now adults. Though Halloween, bitter and disillusioned, has chosen to exile himself, his peers seek to repopulate the Earth and rebuild civilization. They are mankind’s last, best and perhaps only hope. But an ideological split has divided them into two very different societies. One looks to resurrect the human race, while the other is committed to improving humanity via genetic manipulation.
And so a new generation of children is born, but as they mature it becomes clear that all is not well. Someone — or something –- is moving against them, even as the plague that claimed billions of lives makes a deadly return. The survivors must work together, but to save the future Halloween must first let go of the past…

Thematically, the story focuses on the interplay between intent, societal roles, personal flaws and interpersonal conflict. Within a small population one’s mistakes can be amplified and have disasterous consequences. Sagan looks at this with care, drawing lines of cause and effect throughout the story, not giving in to blind pessimism or blind optimism but instead offering an objective view of humanity in all our dangerous fragility and saving flexibility.
Nick Sagan’s focus on characters is exceptional in the field of science fiction, which far too often looks at technology and theme more closely than human characteristics and motivations. His younger characters are especially true to their real world counterparts, highlighting the mix of heightened flaws and strengths adolescence carries. From jealousy, manipulation, apathy, delusion and ambition to altruism, rebellion and curiosity, there’s a remarkable fullness and complexity to the personalities and motivations of Edenborn’s characters.
The plot is filled with twists, intrigue and stunning obsticles, advancing past the complex, whodunit-influenced plot of Idlewild. The deft mix of character development, action, conflict and revelations keeps the story moving at a comfortable, quick and enveloping pace that many novels lose from time to time. The final third of the book is especially thrilling and surprising, an expertly crafted climax that offers both closure and floods us with questions.
Edenborn is well spun, exciting and enjoyable. In a world edging closer to calamity it makes us look at how we have directed ourselves and wonder if we’re dooming the future to final echos of our mistakes or if we can alter our ways quickly enough to save our world from immense harm. There’s hope and caution in this story, a strong case for the importance of speculative fiction as mirror for ourselves and our world.

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