Cold Falling White
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Cold Falling White
I am as weightless as a thought, as a shadow underwater. The only thing that gives me substance is the sense of filling up with . . . something. Something thick and powerful and inhuman, unearthly. I was to squirm away from it but there is nothing to squirm with. All I am is a selection of verbs: to fill, to grow, the change, to perfect. It’s as though I’m being rebuilt from scratch.
This follow-up to Zero Repeat Forever, begins with Raven waking up, traumatically, from near death while Xander finds himself running for his life, trying to find a way to escape Nahx occupied territory. Aided by August (Raven’s captor/romantic interest), Xander finds a way under the massive drone-surveyed border into free territory, but his escape comes at great cost. Meanwhile, Raven finds herself genetically altered by the Nahx, making her nearly immortal, and she comes to the realization that perhaps death was not truly in the cards for those darted by the alien invaders when they first came to Earth. As those previously thought dead begin to reunite with the help of rogue Nahx, Raven and her new team begin to unravel the reasons behind the Nahx invasion and why so many of them are seeing visions of a dark rift. Leading up to an action-packed climax, Cold Falling White guides readers through action, adventure, romance, rivalry, all the way to a mostly satisfying conclusion.
As with the first book, this sequel is told through the alternating perspectives of Xander, Raven, and August, though the first half feels slightly uneven in terms of Xander’s narrative. While Xander is an interesting character, a number of the opening chapters in his voice feel somewhat meandering and not entirely necessary. That being said, the overall plot is action-packed, fast-paced, and full of the teenage angst and romantic elements teen readers would hope for. Canadian readers, as well, will find much to enjoy through the localized references, geographical familiarity, and the inside jokes about certain cities that crop up throughout the narrative.
One of the biggest challenges that I had with Zero Repeat Forever was the relationship between August and Raven. In my original review, I noted that “what seems like an attempt to build a slow romance between the captor and the captive instead feels more like Stockholm syndrome. And even after they realize their feelings for each other (which on both sides feels fast and a bit contrived) the violent interactions continue, with Raven seeming to come to the conclusion that they’re just something she has to endure….” Although Prendergast does address this to some small degree in her sequel, I am not convinced that the relationship can be understood as actually dreamy or romantic considering the lack of interrogation of this relationship.
The ending, itself, is very open-ended and may frustrate young readers who were hoping for some form of conclusion. After all of the lead-up and expectation of a massive war for the future of the world, the final moments leave readers with the question of whether or not there will be a third book (which is something Prendergast has currently noted is not in the cards). I was personally left feeling as though the battle/climax that I had been promised had been denied in the end.
This is not to say that the novel isn’t enjoyable. The characters and overall plot are engaging, and the fight for earth plot is one that has few detractors, particularly in this day and age when escapism is the first thought on any politically inclined mind. As I noted in the review of Zero Repeat Forever, “sci-fi fans will find much to love here”, and I think that, although the ending is left very open, many will find the indeterminacy to be a mirror of our current realities.
Rob Bittner, who has a PhD in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies (Simon Fraser University), is also a graduate of the MA in Children’s Literature program at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, British Columbia. He loves reading a wide range of literature, but particularly stories with diverse depictions of gender and sexuality.