Chris Wooding. Orchard Books (NY), $16.99 (310pp) ISBN 978-0-439-86513-5
Wooding (The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray) builds his new thriller around an ingenious idea that allows him to change the rules of the story at a moment's notice. The city of Orokos, a dismal burg in a dark and poisonous future, is prone to ""probability storms,"" not unlike the ""improbability drive"" in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy or the shifting buildings in the film Dark City. Anyone and anything touched by the storm may or may not be changed in any number of ways-""the storms might snatch a person away and put them elsewhere, turn children into statues of ice, or make a man speak in a different language."" Young burglars Rail and Moa stage a robbery for their boss, the ""thief-mistress"" Anya-Jacana, but Rail tempts fate by pocketing a piece of technology from the ""Functional Age"" for himself, believing it to be worth a fortune. It turns out to be invaluable, as it allows its owner to pass through walls. Their flight leads them, and the quiet golem Vago, into the land of the Revenants, ""invisible ghosts of energy that could possess the body of a person""-and to the knowledge that Orokos is more of a prison than a city. Wooding's prose is characteristically smart and crisp, and the city's tension electric; an elegantly open ending allows the story to resonate long after the last page. Ages 12-up.
Reviewed on: 09/04/2006