Wakers (The Side Step Trilogy #1)

Orson Scott Card. S&S/McElderry, $19.99 (400p) ISBN 978-1-4814-9619-3

In this concept-focused trilogy opener, Card (Duplex) presents a slow-moving, dialogue-heavy exploration of metaphysics and alternate timelines. When 17-year-old, Armenian-descended Lazarus Davit Hayerian wakes up in an empty cloning facility in Greensboro, N.C., his unique gift—“side stepping” into alternate timestreams in which he already exists—offers little to explain how he arrived there from California, or why the empty city seems to have been deserted for years. After awakening the only other sleeper in the facility, Latinx Ivy Maisie Downey—the sole person able to sense alternate timelines without visiting them—the two theorize that they must have been cloned and abandoned, possibly for a reason (“Only two clones were alive in the whole orchard. One was you, the other was me”). Navigating an immediate personality clash, the two work to layer their powers while struggling to survive in a dire landscape. While the premise has potential, thin plotting—which focuses almost exclusively on Laz and Ivy’s snarky interactions—saps it of urgency, even as the two clumsily navigate a seemingly ending world and a blossoming relationship. The result reads more as extended thought exercise than engaging adventure. Ages 14–up. Agent: Barbara Bova, Barbara Bova Literary. (Feb.)
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