Back in 1999, members of a mailing list I was on traded book recommendations. Several of the novels I read as a result (among them Hulme’s The Bone People, Allison’s Bastard out of Carolina, Dunn’s Geek Love, Ryman’s Was, Carroll’s Outside the Dog Museum, Powers’ The Goldbug Variations, and Murakami’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World) are still among the most memorable of the past decade. I bought a copy of Nix’s Shade’s Children as part of this binge, and never got around to reading it until now, largely because the back cover copy (world-without-adults + crazy computer) made it sound like a Logan’s Run ripoff.
It turns out not to be a Logan’s Run ripoff after all, but I also didn’t think it was very good. Shade’s Children stitches a bunch of more-and-less familiar sci-fi/horror/fantasy tropes into a fairly original configuration. It held my interest, but wasn’t ultimately a satisfying read. I was reminded of the less successful of William Sleator’s novels, where the literal externalization of adolescent alienation somehow fails to provide thematic resonance. In Nix’s case, that’s partly because his none of his characters achieve real depth. Compared with Sleator, Nix’s psuedo-science is much more pseudo than scientific. Shade’s Children is really a fantasy with science-fiction-y trappings — Nix seems uninterested in making the rules of his grim future internally consistent, so he breaks them whenever it’s convenient for advancing the plot. The climax was also markedly unclimactic; it had had a distinct “I’m bored with this concept so I’ll wrap it up in a couple chapters” vibe.
needs more demons? kinda sorta.