cover image Three Eight One

Three Eight One

Aliya Whitely. Solaris, $27.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-83786-075-3

This genre-bending metafictional narrative from Whitely (Skyward Inn) begins in 2314, when 17-year-old aspiring historian Rowena Savalas, living in the semi-utopian “Age of Curation,” stumbles across The Dance of the Horned Road, an electronic “autobiographical document containing elements of fiction” from 2024. In that piece, divided into numerous sections of 381 words each, a young woman named Fairly is chosen to follow “the horned road” as a quester. Throughout the course of her dreamlike, surreal journey, Fairly repeatedly encounters the cha, mysterious creatures whose likenesses serve as quest currency and who act as both companions and foodstuffs. Meanwhile, Rowena’s annotations chronicle her questions and comments regarding the text while reflecting her own personal growth. It’s an ambitious structure and, with frequent changes in perspective and tense, it can occasionally be challenging to follow. The plot is circuitous and the characters thinly sketched, but Whitely’s ear for poetic prose will draw in readers who prefer their speculative fiction on the more literary side. Strange and slippery, this experimental outing offers lots to chew on. Agent: Max Edwards, Aevitas Creative Management. (Jan.)