It’s that time of year again the nominees for the Arthur C Clarke Award have dropped once more. This year there is an even more eclectic mix of books most of which I would never have thought of reading were it not for this award. None of this year’s authors are known to me but as has been common in recent years cover a range of styles and an ever widening backdrop of places and ethnicities. Today’s science fiction is far from the old white mans field that it was in the 50’s and 60’s. This is all to the good and provides us with an interesting plethora of viewpoints and stories.
The first story tackled this year is in essence a young adult book called The Infinite by Patience Agbabi the first book in The Leap Cycle. The book is written from the perspective of a 12 year old Nigerian born girl called Elle. Elle is one of a secret few who are born on a leap year and is endowed with the ability to jump through time.
What elevates this time travel caper is the fact that Elle is so young and is autistic as are many of her friends who attend a special school where they learn to control this power and understand their gift. As someone who has worked with autistic children, I can attest to the way on which Patience brings Elle’s thought processes to life.
Despite the complexities of time travel the plot is not very complex in and of itself. There is essential a mystery to solve, several leapers have started to go missing and Elle and her friends must help Time Agents find them and stop those behind it. The simplicity of it all is part of the charm of the novel. Patience has an easy writing style that is deep in the understanding of the autistic but light on the understanding of the other adults. We really do see the whole world through Elle’s eyes, and where she is confused so are we. Although part of a cycle the book has a neat ending which ties up the plot thread whilst promoting a larger story that can carry on into others.
As nice as the story is its not one I feel I will follow up on. I look for more bite in my Sci Fi and somewhat bigger ideas, having said that I enjoyed the read.