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Desiccation Paperback – December 12, 2015
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About the Author
Sarah Potter writes quirky novels that slip and slide between genres.They contain elements of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and eccentric British humour. She has based the main setting for Desiccation on theboarding school she attended in the late 1960s, although it never cameunder attack by interdimensional aliens ... well, it did, but only in herimagination.
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This does not fall into the genre I usually pick up but since a friend wrote it, of course I had to read it! And what a good thing too. Though I struggled a bit with the very British language at times, (was on vacation with no dictionary and no Internet!) mostly in the beginning, I did not let it deter me from continuing on and eventually was right in the thick of it.
The science fiction aspect is almost insidious. It starts off as a story of a bright, scholarly girl named Janet trying to fit into her snobbish private school. She starts noting that very strange things are going on around her and, instead of succumbing to the seeming madness, is lucky enough to have a guardian angel in the form of a pixie named Quillin. I wish a Pixie kiss would clear up my skin!
I could not put it down and got totally enraptured by the story. Sarah Potter has a wonderful imagination and I do not hesitate to recommend this book - to both young and older adults!
Set in a girl’s boarding school rife with characters from 1960’s British upper class, I floundered a little with the names – Miss Dandridge, Miss Featherstone and the hoity Samantha Hamilton-Brown, who I actually quite liked as an elitist snob. However, as their personalities blossomed I grew to both like and indeed loath those that inhabit Toffdene School.
What kept me going beyond those first pages was the rich, almost lyrical and poetic narrative. It reminded me a little of my first primary school – oak wall panels that were polished and tarnished at the same time, the smell of oldness, wood, leather, hockey sticks, thick strawberry custard poured from large battered metal jugs and no sign of a vending machine or fast food, save sweeties bought from the tuck shop!
Desiccation has at its heart a quintessential Britishness that is both endearing and at times off putting. The reason why is because the Brits depicted are so concerned with saying the right thing in the right way so not to offend, that even when something terrifying is just around the corner, reaching for them in the dark, they can’t help but be profoundly polite about it all. Well, most of the time, until the airs and graces are dropped and the potty mouth comes out for a quick quip or two.
I guess the reason why I found it off putting, at first, is that although I am British and often fall into the trappings of being polite, I tend to lean toward the Yankee sensibility of speaking my mind rather than beating about the bush to avoid offending someone. However, I enjoyed how Janet managed to maintain that sense of “being proper” even when faced with astonishing situations.
For me the sci-fi element seeps in so slow I barely noticed it was there for quite some time until the penny dropped and I thought “Ah, so it’s like that, right?” Except it wasn’t because the plot weaves some interesting elements, yes from science fiction, but there are nuances of fantasy, thriller, teenagerisms, and a glimmer or two of erotic undertones that were unexpected and refreshing.
I can’t write a fair review without saying what didn’t work for me. I found Quillin’s need for Janet to go home and save her brother a bit of an anti-climax because no sooner had they got home than they were whisked back to school. It felt like a build up to nothing. And whilst the point of view of Andy/Joe/Samantha/ was well written, I wanted to read the same scene from Janet’s view point, or at least switch back to her again.
I didn’t quite get where Janet’s affection for Joe came from. That seemed a bit pushed later on, whereas there was little mention of her attraction to him earlier for me to believe it, unless I missed that bit. I would have liked to read a scene or two where Samantha was practicing séances, not only for the tension and creepy factor, but to make the connection between the bad guys and her psychic powers more believable or memorable.
That being said neither of these things detracted from the enjoyment of the story. Desiccation is indeed very British, and a reminder that not all science fiction has to be about star ships, lasers and one dimensional bad guys who want to kill everything for a random clichéd reason. Like I said before this is a story of subtle blends of genres that work very well together.
So, if you fancy a sci-fi tale that treads off the beaten track, but at the same time manages to hark back to those glory days when the genre was in its infancy, I whole heartedly recommend Desiccation. It’s a quirky and enjoyable story that surprised and entertained me.
Initially, I had this down as a kind of B-movie type of read. The subject matter and the book cover would certainly have encouraged this. And I'd have been happy enough. But 'Desiccation,' is more than simply that. In movie terms, if you were to blend that feel with a sinister, twisted and creepy, but at the same time psychedelic and trippy version of Alice in Wonderland, then you'd be half way there. At times I felt I was myself being caught up in some sort of hallucinogenic dream.
There is also a lot of light humor sprinkled throughout, and the writing style is easy on the eye, with the characters each having their own defined 'accent.'
I'd class 'Desiccation' as a fun and light read, but one that both demands and grabs your attention.