Phantom Universe by Laura Kreitzer is different, richly written and thoroughly engaging. Two things stand out for me, the endearing character of Summer and how fully we experience the world from her perspective. The novel, written in the present tense, has a unique voice, a powerful sense of immediacy, and lusciously heartwarming moments in a cold world.
Kidnapped at four years old, Summer is enslaved and so abused that she doesn’t speak. Unknown to her, she is some kind of experiment gone wrong and the secret society responsible is searching for her with the intention of terminating her. When they come onto the ship on which she had spent most of her life, she manages to escape and finds herself 200 years in the future. The story from there is one of her reorientation into a world where despite hardships, friendship and love blossoms. Throughout the book we see Summer struggle with the mere idea of speaking, and her challenge in the end is whether or not she can overcome the fear that keeps her silent to save the one she loves. The end is very satisfying but leaves you with a deepened sense of mystery, wetting your appetite for more.
I love Laura Kreitzer’s passionate and evocative writing style, her creativity and her exceptional ability to draw very real, interesting characters. Though tiny in form, Summer is strong and smart in mind, fiercely protective of those she considers friends, and still sweet and in some ways innocent, despite her terrible life as a slave. The real beauty of this novel is that it shows how incredibly powerful even small acts of kindness are to someone who has been abused.
I only problem I had was with the concept of a person as a time machine and the blood connection to Summer that supposedly explains the movement of large numbers of people through time. I hope Kreitzer provides some believable explanation in the sequels. I put that reservation aside however, because the story didn’t depend upon you believing that. The guts of the story is really Summer’s inner journey and that is beautifully done.
If you like young adult Dystopian novels with engaging characters and a mix of love, action, and mystery then you’ll love this. It’s a book I’d read again and I give it 5 out of 5. Expected publication date: February 15th 2011 by Obsidian Mountain Publishing