March 18, 2020

Parker Peevyhouse: "Where Futures End"

Title: Where Futures End [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Parker Peevyhouse [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Sci-Fi
Year: 2016
Age: 12+
Stars: 4/5
Pros: Ambitious, with a premise that - while not exactly fresh - is used to greatest effect. Paints some vivid and intriguing (if scary) scenarios, all while telling a few interesting and interconnected stories.
Cons: You get to spend too little time with the characters to really get attached to them. The sci-fi/fantasy blend may not work for everyone.
Will appeal to: Those who like short stories connected in a broader framework. Those who like speculations about the future. Those who love technology but are also aware of the risks it entails.

Blurb: One year from now, Dylan develops a sixth sense that allows him to glimpse another world. Ten years from now, Brixney must get more hits on her social media feed or risk being stuck in a debtors' colony. Thirty years from now, Epony scrubs her entire online profile from the web and goes “High Concept.” Sixty years from now, Reef struggles to survive in a city turned virtual gameboard. And more than a hundred years from now, Quinn uncovers the alarming secret that links them all.  (Goodreads excerpt)

Review: As a rule, I'm not the biggest fan of short fiction - I need to spend more time with the characters and into a world in order to feel their pull. But short stories/novellas that connect in some way and are part of a bigger picture never fail to have me intrigued. It happened with Windows into Hell, and it happened again here...

Peevyhouse's debut has got a premise firmly rooted in science fiction, but at the same time, manages to bring lots of fantasy elements on the table. The gist of it: another world (called the Other Place) exists, overlapping with our own - a world that resembles a fantasy realm, completed with all its usual magic and darkness. At a certain point, it becomes possible to travel between the two worlds, though none (?) of the travellers can stay long because of a different - if slightly - physiology. Also, to cross over ( even glimpse at the Other Place) you need a strong vorpal (Dylan, the first character to visit the alternate world, starts using the Lewis Carrol' made-up word out of context, and it becomes canon through the years), which is, roughly, something akin to charisma and strong will rolled into one. This premise will probably sound familiar, except it takes a turn towards social commentary through five stories that span more than a hundred years, addressing the rise and fall of technology and the regression of the human race (especially in terms of women's rights) on the backdrop of an irreversible climate change. [...]


Of all the stories, Dylan's and Quinn's - first and last - have the strongest fantasy (if gloomy) feel, though for different reasons, and it only makes sense that through them we come full circle, at least in a way. Brixney's, Epony's and Reef's paint a scary (but darkly funny in places) picture of the technology take-over, though in Quinn's story, it has all but disappeared in the wake of our world's collapse (to be honest, I'm not convinced that an event like that could take place in the span of forty years, but maybe I - we all - should entertain the possibility, because severe climate change could probably revert our environment back to Middle Ages in a snap, and maybe if we considered the worst possible outcome, we would start taking it more seriously than we are now). Of all the stories, Reef's was probably my favourite, what with Peevyhouse creating an immersive, convincing virtual reality (a simulation of the Other Place for those who can't cross over) superimposed on a dilapidated city that all but lurks behind at every angle, with a doomed main character and a series of clever connections between virtual and physical world.


Given the matter at hand, the overall tone is melancholic and sombre, though there are funny and hopeful patches. Fair warning though: there's not what you would call a happy ending (which you probably already suspected), and it sounds like even survival doesn't necessarily bring joy. I don't want you to think this is a depressing book though - it's just a novel (or better, a series of interconnected novellas) designed to make you think, sometimes poetic, sometimes tragic, sometimes hopeful, always honest (without being preachy) in its promoting environmental awareness and addressing our dependence from technology. The only reason why I didn't rate it higher was that, given the little time we get to spend with the characters, it was difficult for me to deeply care for any of them. That's where the clever format both makes the book and detracts from it, if a little. Then again, if you like plausible sci-fi stories (not hard on the sci-fi) with a fantasy angle, and you can put up with the lack of a happy ending, definitely try this one. It will repay.

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  1. This sounds like a very interesting premise, and the climate change angle appeals to me as well. I like that climate change is being used more and more in dystopian fiction, since it (obviously) is so relevant right now! And I do like a good sci- fi/ fantasy mash up, especially if done well. I'll have to look for this!

    1. You're one of the few people I know who do like sci-fi, so I would recommend this one to you for that alone LOL. Then again, it's a very accessible book for those who don't click well with hardcore sci-fi.

  2. I struggle with short stories for the reason you pointed out - you don't get to form an attachment with the characters, and that's important to me. 4/5 is not a bad experience though.

    1. Not at all! I did love the story overall, though - like you - I need the attachment.

  3. I also tend to struggle with short books with big concepts because I feel like they need more time to really get going and have time to really dive into the plot, characters and themes. And while it does seem like it could have used some more time with the characters, otherwise it sounds like this was a pretty good one! I might give it a go if I am in more of a storytelling and plot mood.

    1. It was a neat idea, thought the characters' development was limited by the page count. And even if you aren't a fan of hard-core sci-fi, you won't struggle with it, because it's very accessible.

  4. This has been on my radar for a while, but you know me, I'm BAD at getting to books that have low average ratings, and below 3.5 is extremely low for me. 😅 Also, sci-fi is not at all my favorite - I'm intrigued about the fantasy elements, though - so that's another thing against this title. Argh, I just cannot make a decision!
    Great review, Roberta! :)

    1. It's extremely accessible sci-fi, if it helps - nothing you have to wrap your head around. But if the average rating is too low for you, I know you'll never get to it LOL. Then again, if we should go by average rating, I think we would read really few books, and probably would miss out on some that don't fit the mould, or need a little more engagement and get "punished" for that...


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