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Flash Back (The Fountain #1) Paperback – June 5, 2017
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"Ellison Blackburn writes with incisiveness, deeply informed by the sensibilities of a poet." -Owen O'Neill, author
"Blackburn's novel delivers the pleasures of a well-drawn near future, with an uncommonly authentic and credible scientific backdrop--but what makes this novel so unexpectedly refreshing as genre fiction is how deeply and decisively character-driven it is." -Roger Margolis, author and screenwriter.
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Set in the very near future, I do admit to raising an eyebrow at some of the author's predictions. I can accept that in ten years we might have the technology to regenerate ourselves on a cellular level and cybernetic implants are already in use as treatment for medical conditions,but I am not quite convinced that we as a nation will end poverty within the next century, let alone the next decade.
Charley was a fascinating character. On many levels, I related to her thoughts and concerns about growing complacent with life as middle age sets in and I've often had the same worries about making memories vs simply existing. I have to wonder which path I would choose if the option of regeneration was open to me. Honestly, I'd likely go for the cybernetics, and I think that's what I loved most about this story: it made me think.
I read often and I read almost exclusively for pleasure. While there are many intelligent sci-fi and fantasy books that have given me reason to pause and consider my worldviews, few have given me the same level of introspection as this tale. In a way, the ending (which I will not spoil) is brilliant in the manner in which it addresses the reader. Highly recommended to readers of any genre.
The concept of gene/cell therapy is not unusual in sci-fi, but what sets "Flash Back" apart is its focus on the inner lives of the characters rather than the accoutrements of the future. Things in 2026 are pretty much the same as they are in 2016, other than slightly more advanced medicine and communication possibilities. People, however, are pretty much the same, and Charley's struggles will probably ring a bell with most readers. She's always wanted to be unique and different and have exciting adventures, but it turns out that being unique is hard and exciting adventures are not that much fun when they're actually happening--her recurring dreams of a memory of hiking in the Alps and discovering that it's mostly about sweating and sore muscles, not glorious uplifting epiphanies, is a wonderful insight into her character and the characters of so, so many people. This is not an adventure novel in the classic sense, and the actual sci-fi aspect is understated: the main focus is always on Charley's journey and experiences, and as a detailed and in-depth character study it is well worth reading.
The world of the book felt like a believable future, with being mostly similar but with some sci-fi esque aspects. We don't get that much of a look at it because of the narrator, though. Which is okay, but I wish there was more detail.
The plot, or well, personal journey of Charley felt a little slow and tiresome at points, but her character is very wishy washy, so that makes sense in context. I was frustrated by her and happy for her at various moments in the novel.
I do not feel entirely satisfied by the ending, but once again that has to do with the personal nature of the story. Charley changed in subtle ways, rather than more epic ones.
Overall, it is a very interesting read and was insightful to how and why we make choices.
One thing that I appreciate about writers is when they demonstrate a true command of the language of their story. I enjoyed the descriptive nature of this author's tale, and the way she used such a large vocabulary to describe the thoughts and actions of her characters.
I had some trouble getting into the actual story itself, though. It seemed like it took a long time to get down to the meat of the book itself. Told from the perspective of Charley, a 54 year old married woman who had fallen into a life of settling for what had become comfortable over the years, "Regeneration X" is relayed through the thoughts and diary entries of someone who wants more from life but feels that she no longer has control to choose what she feels is best for her.
When she begins seeking out therapy, she learns in her sessions that her lack of control is just an illusion she has created and so she starts to assert herself and make major life-changing decisions that could potentially either strengthen or destroy her marriage. She decides to undergo a procedure called regeneration. From that point on, her life changes dramatically.
For this reader, the story was interesting but not captivating. Well-written, but needed just a little more punch to engage me as Charley's life unfolded.
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