February 21, 2013

Faye & Aliza Kellerman: "Prism"

Title: Prism [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Faye & Aliza Kellerman [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Multiverse, Dystopian
Year: 2009
Age: 12+
Stars: 1/5
Pros: Unique premise. Easy to follow.
Cons: Serious lack of world-building. Unengaging characters. Some issues are addressed but never explained.
Will appeal to: Those who like alternate realities, but don't care for intricacies in a plot.

Blurb: The novel features three teens who fall through a cave at Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico while on a field trip. They are plunged into a frightening parallel universe - seven weeks in the past, in which their "normal" worlds of family and high school remain the same…except for the fact that no medicine exists and when people die in the street they are picked up and disposed of. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: Back when I bought this book, I hadn't developed the useful habit of pre-reading tons of reviews yet. Prism was pretty much an impulsive purchase, based on the blurbs only (in my haste, I even bought the friggin' hardcover!). Since I'm a freak for alternate realities/universes, the book hugely appealed to me. But in this case, I learned my lesson the hard way...not every alternate realities/universes story necessarily delivers.
The novel follows Kaida - the MC - Joy and Zeke, three teens who don't particularly like each other, but end up traveling together in a small van with a teacher during a school trip, since the rest of their schoolmates have been assigned to a bigger van. This is the first inconsistency in the book, because IRL best friends would have teamed together, not supinely waited for an assignation. Anyway. During the trip, a terrible accident causes Kaida, Joy and Zeke to seek refuge in a cave, fall into a hole and wake up in an alternate reality, where the only peculiar anomaly is...there is apparently no concept of medical care. The three teens struggle with this situation, especially since Joy injured her arm in the fall. Trying to help her, Kaida embarks on a dangerous journey where she is also to find the convenient love interest, while Joy ends up seeking comfort in Zeke's (unscathed) arms.
The idea of a parallel universe where medical care is non-existent could have produced interesting results, if well handled. But Prism fails to actually explain the gist of it. There's vague talk of a Naturalist doctrine, that only allows herbs to be used in order to cure diseases, but not a solid reason why medicine should be banned. Also, smoking is allowed everywhere and even among teens instead. This seems to me a mere plot device, used with the intent of painting an upside-down world (at least when it comes to health issues), because it doesn't make sense. The funny thing is, medicines do actually exist in this parallel universe, but they're illegal - just like drugs in the normal world. And we eventually learn that some rich and powerful individuals are secretly using meds, while normal citizens seem okay with staying away from them - even adamant about it. One could think that the medicine ban would stir a rebellion (we don't know how long it has been going on, but still. And incidentally, this is another cause of annoyance for me, when it comes to the world-building). But we have a bunch of strictly observant people instead, and even the act of saving someone from choking seems to infuriate them - which is past ridiculous, because it doesn't involve the use of meds. [...]

Another crazy thing is, only Kaida is actually fighting the ban, while Joy (who needs help with her injured arm) and Zeke (who's supposedly growing attached to Joy, though we almost only know about it from Kaida's comments) wait for her to do all the dirty job at first. Zeke even gets cold feet at one point, fearing he could lose his status at school and such - all while Joy and her injured arm are right in front of him.
Kaida will meet a couple of allies on the way - one of them being, of course, a cute boy she hasn't met (yet?) in her original world. Also, someone else gives her hints and directions, despite seeming more than reluctant at first. But there's a convenient backstory about this too. And speaking about said unexpected ally, there's a little family episode that causes Kaida to think this person ratted her out with her parents - but since this wasn't the case, we're left in the dark about who really did it. Another loose end...
A couple of times, Kaida wonders about who took her place in the world she came from. But no explanations or theories are offered. This is one of the huge problems I have with alternate universes, more often overlooked by authors than not.
Also, the reality Kaida and her friends stumbled upon is some weeks back in time, compared to their original timeline. This is never explained as well, and I doubt it could - again, it's convenient for the plot and nothing more.
More adventures and troubles ensue, till Kaida, Joy and Zeke can attempt to get back home...and I won't spoil the ending for you, if you still want to give this book a try.
Someone on Goodreads (sorry, I don't remember who you are!) also made an interesting point that never crossed my own mind while reading. In a world without medical care, one would expect at least some of the people who were alive in the original reality to be dead instead, because of any possible disease - from a street accident to a simple bronchitis. But it sounds like everyone Kaida knows is very much alive instead. Thank you for the insight, fellow GR pal - another huge hole in the world-building.
The writing is basically OK, though some parts - like the initial exchange between Kaida and her best friend Maria - seem a bit contrived. Like I said, my biggest problems were the lack of world-building and the fact that the characters never came to life for me. With all the ingenious novels among which one can choose, I would suggest that you skip this one.

For more Multiverse books click here.

Alternate cover (Paperback)


  1. I've noticed that a lot of dystopians don't explain why the heck they are they away they are. That's ok up to a point but sometimes I'm more interested (or need to know) how things got the way they are.

    Sorry this didn't work for you.

    I remember the good old pre-blogging days of impulse buying! lol

    1. I'm a big fan of time travel and alternate realities novels, but on the other hand, they're often frustrating - some writers seem contented with throwing stuff on paper and see where it may lead them...Sometimes they come up with a great idea but can't seem to live up to it. It's a pity.
      Glad to know I'm not the only one who used to buy on impulse LOL.


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