Nineteen years ago, a brain disease known as the Great Madness killed most of the world's population. The survivors all had something different about their minds. Now, at the start of adolescence, their children enter a trance-like state known as the Changeland and emerge either with special mental powers or as cannibalistic Ferals. In the great forest of South West Australia, 13-year-old Arika and her twin brother Narrah go through the Changeland. They encounter an enemy known as the Anteater who feeds on human life. He exists both in the Changeland and in the outside world, and he wants the twins dead. After their Changings, the twins have powers that let them fight their enemy and face their destiny on a long journey to an abandoned American military base on the northwest coast of Australia...if they can reach it before time runs out. Children of the Different is a post-apocalyptic fantasy novel set among the varied landscapes and wildlife of Western Australia.
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This post-apocalyptic tale is set in Western Australia. 19 years ago, the Great Madness killed most of the world’s population. Now when children enter their adolescence, they go into a trance-like state, entering the Changeland, and may come out of it fairly normal or a bit deranged and prone to cannibalism. Arika and her twin brother Narrah are at that age and their adventures in the Changeland will alter them, and perhaps their small society, forever.
This tale was just a bit different from anything else I have read recently. First, I loved the setting and all the Australian animals that come into play throughout the tale. There’s even stromatolites! From dense forest to dry desert to cityscape to ocean-side village – this story covers a lot of ground. Then we have the Changeland, a place that can only be entered by your spirit through a trance-like state. Everything is warped in the Changeland. Sometimes a person sees images of cities healthy and whole before the Great Madness and sometimes a persons sees things as a they are now, but far, far from where they live. For both Arika and Narrah, they each run into the Anteater, which is like our Coyote trickster of the desert southwest here in the states. His motives aren’t clear until the end of the story, but he uses both charm and threats to set things in motion.
While Arika in undergoing her Change, her brother is out of the village when he comes across Weiran, who used to be part of the village before he went a bit feral after his own Change. Narrah ends up captured by a group of city people and hauled away. Once Arika comes back to reality, she insists on going after him but she has to sneak away to do so. Turah, another childhood friend who now has strange prophetic abilities, goes with her. Both Arika and Narrah will have some harrowing experiences before they are reunited. Once they do, there is the task of taking one of the few remaining military bases in the area! The plot kept me guessing the entire time. There’s a little Mad Max action too when folks take some of the few remaining functional vehicles on the last jog of the story.
This was an exciting story. At times, it was beautiful and strange, and at other times I was biting my nails in anticipation of what would happen to our heroes. The Changeland is an eerie, unpredictable place and adds an unexpected dimension to this post-apocalyptic tale. S. C. Flynn is an author to keep an eye on and see what he comes up with next.
I received a copy of this book at no cost from the author in exchange for an honest review.
The Narration: Stephen Briggs was a great choice for this tale. I loved his Australian accent he did for all the characters (except for the 1 or 2 minor characters who weren’t Australian). He also had this great gritty voice for this character Bowman who doesn’t show up until the second half of the story. Sometimes the volume did wiggle up and down a bit, but not so much I had to turn the volume down or risk ear damage. Over all, a great performance.
Years ago, a plague happened that was called The Great Madness, it wiped out most of the population, with the rest being broken up by people with special powers, or ones who succumbed to the madness and are now feral. Now when kids enter into adulthood, they go into a trance and enter the realm called Changeland. Here they enter the change and either come back with powers, or feral.
Narrah and Arika are twins and at the age where their Change will happen anytime. Arika enters the Changeland first, but I'm not going to tell you what happens because that will ruin it ;), and then Narrah. Their lives are changed forever because of it and we are brought along for the ride!
It is very hard to summerise the plot of this because this is such a unique and intriguing world, that I will inadvertently spoil something, so I'll try to get my thoughts together enough to make sense.
Ok, so this was a pleasant surprise for me. I pretty much loved everything about it. The world building was amazing and incredibly vivid. It's set in Australia, which seems like an incredible place anyway, and goes from forest, to city (albeit derelict) to ocean. The author really brings the scenery to life and makes it very easy to visualise. Not only that, but we have the incredible Changeland. A pace where anything is possible, where you can see memories or sites you have never seen before. It's here where the twins meet The Anteater. (Again, I'm not going to explain this because it is best experienced!! Read the book and you will see who he is!!) The author nailed the setting and it really made the book come alive.
I also loved the characters. There were some varied and intriguing ones too! I loved the twins, their bond was awesome and I loved reading about them. I found all of the abilities to be intriguing and the characters more so. Weirin, Turah, The Anteater, the scientist, the people Arika meet along the way, all of these were well written and developed and I loved each of them.
So why only 4 stars? Well, I found that things got a little repetitive with the twins and felt like they were focused too much on missing each other some times, when they didn't have to keep on about it. I also found that the inner monologue the twins had was sometimes..... annoying but I think that had more to do with the quality of production than it did the writing!! Other than those minor things, this was an amazing debut book! This author is one to watch!!!!
Now, the narrator, Stephen Briggs, was really good. I'm so glad that the author picked an Australian to read it as it really worked well. Stephen himself did a great job with the narration and had a brilliant array of tones and voices that brought this story alive. What stopped him from being 5 star was the fact that the volume kept going up and down. It seemed like he spoke low and turned down the volume during the inner monologues and then turn it back to normal every other time. I found it annoying and distracting because if there was any background noise in my house, (and there always is with 4 boys!!) I'd have to turn the volume up and then turn it down again or else my ears were basted!! It took away from an otherwise flawless performance.
I was voluntarily provided this free copy by the author, narrator, or publisher. This in no way affected nor influenced my thoughts.