David Stahler, Jr.. HarperCollins/Eos, $15.99 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-06-052285-8
Stahler's powerful debut novel is two parts science-fiction thriller and one part cautionary fable about the dangers of fundamentalism. In the far future, the agrarian colony of Harmony is populated by the blind-by-choice. For generations, the people of Harmony (and their fellow members of the Foundation) have adhered to the philosophy of Truesight, believing that vision is a faulty way to perceive the world ("Blindness is purity. Blindness is unity. Blindness is freedom"); where the founders gave up their vision, now the people are born blind. But 12-year-old Jacob inexplicably begins to develop sight. On the verge of turning 13 and being assigned a career by the state, he keeps his condition a secret for as long as he can, but finally reveals it to his closest friend, who reluctantly turns Jacob over to the authorities. Stahler does a remarkable job of depicting a world in which pictures are irrelevant—for most of the book's first half, visual descriptions are meaningless, and the author instead uses the heightened importance of sound to flesh out the setting. When Jacob's vision does emerge, audience members, too, may feel as if they're experiencing light and shadow for the first time. Although the story line can be easily anticipated, Stahler's supple writing and unusual twist should keep readers firmly hooked. Ages 12-up.
Reviewed on: 02/16/2004