Sunday, 10 August 2008

CHION by Darryl Sloan - The Review

Yes, I'm late. Want to know why? I got stuck in the Dublin floods and couldn't get home last night. I did make some video but these guys did it better:

Well, enough of that. There's a great book to go on about! And it involves not rain, but snow...

Chion is Greek and means "like snow". A white substance has fallen from the sky, immobilising all that it touches. We watch events unfold within a junior high school. The story is centred on Jamie and his friend Tara, fighting to survive in a world that's turned against humanity. Yet the national and international disaster is eclipsed by their intensely personal journey of faith and tragedy, despair and love, chilling ruthlessness and future hope.

Darryl has written a book eminently suitable for teens, but carrying enough bite for vanloads of grown-ups. I loved the Irish setting (of course), the accents leaping off the page, and a very nicely crafted story. And so imaginative! Who would ever think of twelve reams of paper as a life-saving necessity? Not me. Surprises like this are all the way through Chion, along with quirky sideways humour - such as when Jamie thinks of terrorists as the safe, sensible explanation for what's going on.

This is not sci-fi as you know it. There's actually very little in the way of technical stuff. It's very people-centred, casting a bright light on personal action and reaction to adversity. Both kindness and cruelty are increased in a vivid display of humanity, and it caused me to wonder: What would I do? Can I even answer that question? If the whole country were in such mortal danger, would my thoughts be on my own survival - or someone else's?

There's a great sense of the coldness, of streets emptied of life, of sudden harshness, the will to live, and the will to save. There's also a sense of the awakening of maturity within Jamie and Tara as they face the unprecedented situation.

Chion is an absolute gem. Hold on tight and jump aboard for the ride!

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