When We Wake by Karen Healey

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Recently I learnt, via Snopes (Snopes is really ruining urban legends. Shame on you, Snopes. Urban legends are fun), that Walt Disney was never actually cryogenically frozen, just plain old cremated. Which is unfortunate, because people being cryogenically frozen seems awesome (at least on TV, like that X-files episode where the frozen scientist was controlling his unfrozen brother in order to avenge his death) and also because when I was twelve I told everyone that Walt Disney was cryogenically frozen as if it were an absolute fact. I had no idea I was spreading an urban myth.

I bring this up because When We Wake features a protagonist who, about a century after her death, is reanimated. I started reading When We Wake expecting a fast-paced sci-fi with lots of adventure! and baddies! and futuristic weapons! Which was well and truly delivered. I think what's especially great in this novel is not the fact that it's an intense, brilliantly-plotted science fiction novel (which it is), but how incredibly authentic and thought-provoking it is. The Australia of the future described is both disconcerting and terrifying because it is very, very believable. (There are real live people who would be in favour of the fictitious 'no immigrant' policy in the novel's future Australia, which is what makes it scary.)

Tegan is an awesome protagonist, who is very, very committed to doing the right thing. (She also does free running at one point. They should turn this into a movie, or at the very least, a series. It'd be very cool. By 'they' I mean people with the money to make films. The free running bit would be great.) If you are incredibly irritated by insipid female protagonists, this novel will be refreshing. Tegan, however, can be a bit soap-boxy (that's totally an adjective, just go with it) - I think the tendency towards preachiness will turn some readers off.

Lots of excellent Beatles references. Always a good thing. I found it reminiscent of Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series. A little heavy on the romance for my liking (Sometimes it feels forced with dense, plot-driven novels, like the author think it is a vital aspect of every YA novel. 'You are on the run from shifty government authorities! How do you have time for romance?!') I loved the amount of diversity in the supporting characters, in their religions and cultures and orientations, all of whom are realistic and naturally written. Definitely worth a look if you like YA sci-fi.

When We Wake on Goodreads
When We Wake on the publisher's website
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