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Childhood's End
Arthur C. Clarke
Brian Michael Bendis, Olivier Coipel
Scrivener's Moon - Audio
Philip Reeve
Beyond the Billboard - Susan Gates Firebird and Ford live in the swamp with their father (Trapper) and grandmother. Trapper and Ford trap eels to support the family, and Firebird spends her time daydreaming and making purses out of eel skin and feathers. (That's meant to be Firebird on the cover, but she has red hair in the book. Hence the name.) Their mother has been dead for years. The family hides from the outside world in an isolated swamp, hidden from view by a huge billboard. And then the lies start surfacing, about every aspect of their lives. Including what happened to their mother.

Most of this book is quite good. The characterization of Ford and Firebird, especially their deep reluctance to believe the truths they're being faced with, is very believable. Especially given their very isolated life. (It's never put this way in the book, that I can remember, but I'd lay good money that Ford and Firebird could count on one hand the number of people outside their family that they've spoken to in their entire lives.) The family's crisis point flows naturally from everything that came before.

I only really have a couple little nitpicks. The ending is so abrupt and leaves so much story untold that it's not an ending so much as it's an arbitrary stopping point. It has exactly the same effect as walking away from a book with a chapter unread. I don't think a sequel is planned (Firebird seems to be the same book under a different title.) And there's at least one huge question left unanswered, or even speculated about. Why is this family so intent on hiding away from the world? Supposedly, they've always lived like this. But why? The closest we get to an answer is Trapper saying that there's nothing they need in the city. But that's just a reason to live in the country, not to hide so completely that nobody knows you exist.

Incidentally, some blurbs call this book dystopian. (See the one on the Firebird page.) It is so not dystopian. The setting sure looked contemporary to me, or maybe five minutes in the future. There's just nothing to justify calling it dystopian. And since that's the blurb I read before adding it to my TBR, I have to say that I was a little disappointed. Luckily, the story is good enough that I got over it, but it's still irritating.