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Hexult Paperback – July 8, 2011
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
Exciting tale of adventure
Hexult is an exciting tale of adventure from beginning to end and leaves the reader knowing that good trumps evil any day.
~ Sift Book Reviews
"It has that sprinkle of fairytale charm that we find so little of lately. "
From the Author
Shipwrecked on the frozen seas of an ice world, in a future so distant that the only traces left of our time are shards of glass, fifteen year old twins, Jacob and Elya, are rescued by Aulf, the young mail man, who earns a precarious living sailing his small boat between the treacherous arms of the Vajra Crevasse, to deliver mail to the troubled islands of Hexult.
When the seas rose and the world froze, much technology was lost, and Jacob and Elya's superior knowledge of science leads the superstitious islanders to believe they are magicians. An ancient prophecy, predicting their arrival, spells trouble for the twins, and before long threatens their relationship with each other and puts and Elya's life in danger.
With the islands at each other's throats, Jacob and Elya come up with a revolutionary plan to help improve relations across Hexult, an idea instantly snapped up by Hexult's resident magician, Gabriel, who sees it as the perfect way to redeem his own fading glory, and immediately plots to undermine the twins' credibility and snatch the credit for himself.
With the help of Aulf, and his fiery crewmate, Ingar the Orphan, Jacob and Elya must overcome personal tragedy, the islanders' prejudice, marauding ice raiders, and Gabriel's vengeful scheming, in order to save their reputations and their lives.
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One day while delivering the mail, Aulf and Ingar come across a wrecked vessel and find two young teenagers inside, barely alive, almost frozen to death. Their father was killed with the destruction of their boat, leaving the twins, Elya and Jacob, with no family. But Jacob and Elya have a lot to offer the people of Hexult, if only everyone was as willing to listen to them as Aulf and Ingar, because the people from the land of ice have never seen a lodestone, or witnessed a blacksmith heat and pound out steel, and they've never watched anyone carve out a lens of clear ice and use it to trap the rays of the sun, enabling the user to build a fire. Fire could be the difference between life and death if caught out on the ice during the night.
Reliable communication is a big dilemma between the islands and the twins have suggested the building of light towers may just be the answer to their problem. In the top of the towers would be mirrors and these could be used to flash messages between the islands, doing away with the need for a carrier. No one would have to worry anymore about a message getting confiscated by raiders--whose numbers grow daily, raising the level of fear and conflict among the people. But not everyone is pleased with the idea. There is one in particular who is afraid the twins might undermine his authority and destroy the respect he has created through superstitious fear in the people. He'd like to take credit for the idea of the light towers himself and does what he can to bring the twins down.
I'm far past the age for target readers of Hexult, but I enjoyed every last page of this wonderful adventure. I can just imagine kids going to their parents after reading, curious about the workings of a compass, or trying to build a magnifying glass from a chunk of clear ice. Any novel that can raise a child's curiosity about nature and science, and inspire the need to learn, is a wonderful deal in my eyes. And if an adventure can be gained with Aulf, Ingar, Jacob and Alya in their imaginations while they do so, then so much the better. I loved the novel and plan to purchase a copy for my eleven-year-old niece. I'm afraid she can't have mine. That one is reserved for my own adventure. :) You might have to get two, like I did--one copy for you, one for the kids. I'm sure you'll enjoy this novel as much as I did.
I did find the story, characters and writing engaging and the story well paced. It was a enjoyable and the characters realistic.
Like most juvenile fiction it fails on several points.
Like the vast majority of new SF it fails it's reality check.
The story itself, is a coming-of-age story, but it's more fantasy than SF. This isn't unusual for juvenile fiction, since young adults (heck, even mature adults,) seldom find themselves in position to influence major events. It's a good story of dealing with loss, change and responsibility.
I enjoyed the story despite it's factual problems.
I'm a 'hard science' SF fan, and prefer the physical and social universe to be as accurate as possible (though I'm willing to let things wiggle a bit if it is necessary for the story.) Unfortunately, the inaccuracies were not necessary to the story.
But in juvenile fiction I especially dislike to see misinformation distributed as fact.
Thus the small technology introduced in the story is refreshingly accurate; fire-starters, compasses, signal towers (though why one would use a lodestone rather than a compass for navigation...and I would have gone with the cylinder/piston fire-starter rather than flint & steel...it's far less well known, and much easier to fabricate in areas with little metal and rock.)
Hard science errors are mostly really large background assumptions. This is especially tacky when Internet research is so effortless. The errors cover the gamut from geology, to hydrology to biology and psychology/sociology.
The biggest background errors relate to a poor understanding of the physics of water--a far from intuitive substance! First is the concept of the planetary ice all melting, and then refreezing thousands of meters thick, in particular while maintaining a surface over thousands of miles which would be suitable for ice boats. The amount of energy retained in liquid sea water, even at freezing, is difficult to imagine. The air could freeze and there would still be miles of liquid water under the ice.
([...]) tells you the requirements of weather to create ice suitable for boating. Deep water tends to freeze slowly, and generates pressure ridges as the expanding ice buckles. Any pictures of the Arctic ice sheet will show you that it is far to rugged to ice-boat. Ice-boating also requires moderate temperatures--below freezing, but above -10, both to ensure the survival of exposed crew skin and to permit runners to function. physics of ice skating
Still, such a surface COULD develop, it would require a major energy input after the freeze to remelt the air and top few meters of ice, A period of substantial solar radiation increase following a period of very low solar activity might cause such melt--which would then have to be followed by a quick freeze and then more moderate temperatures. Still, the story implies thousands of miles in all directions of near-perfect ice--unlikely. (An ice boat has no trouble reaching speeds of over 60mph, and with sustained winds as described, this would be easily maintained for 8-10 hours per day. 20 days * 10hr/day * 60/mph = 12,000 miles!)
Another 'freaky' ice fact which causes problems is the fact that water with the greatest density is a few degrees warmer than freezing. This means that the water in a puddle formed on an ice surface is warmer at the bottom than the top, since water absorbs sunlight better than ice, this means that such puddles tend to grow deeper over time. It's a major factor in glacial melt and movement. (Density is also a factor in skating.)
While it is certainly possible to have huge areas covered with water & ice (most of the planetary surface is already,) even melting ALL ice won't raise the oceans a huge amount (of course, if you happen to be inundated, any amount is probably more than you'd like.)
Most ice on land (the only melt which can affect sea levels,) is in Antarctica, with a substantially lessor amount in Greenland.
Total ice melt in Greenland would raise sea levels ~15m.
Antarctica is much larger and has thicker ice, but maximum total sea level rise predictions are under 200m, which leaves substantial land above water. (Actual levels are harder to predict because while rising, the seas also widen, covering a larger area...Google Maps has a layer available to show various sea level changes. Sea levels today are substantially higher than during the peaks of the ice ages.)
Geologically, geothermal energy melts the ice in contact with the earth, leading to, at the least, shoreline effects.
Wind and sun degrade the edges of any crevasses as substantial as described. Ice particles in wind will sculpt just as sand will...which also implies possible odd shapes in the rock.
Light towers using fire or mirrors have a limited range of under 100 miles.
At one point the runners are described as 'frozen into the ice due to the cabin heat.' More likely, they would settle in due to the weight on the runners.
There is a lot of concern shown about freezing to death, but people are extremely resilient, and assuming temperatures below freezing and above 0F it's not particularly difficult to stay warm enough to live. In fact, people lived naked in Tierra del Fuego at temperatures hovering around freezing. Oddly, there's little concern about frostbite, which is far more common. (A person who spent years of ice-sailing daily, would be likely to be missing some facial parts (ears, nose tip,) and possibly some digits...it's very easy to freeze moving at 60mph with even a slight bit of skin exposed.)
Most people who freeze die because they were unable to achieve any sort of shelter--most are drunk, most of the rest are simply ignorant of survival methods for the climate. The easiest way is to fall through ice into water and not have both shelter and fire available if you get out.
Biologically, there seems insufficient area and life to support the numbers of people and animals...but that's difficult to tell.
Sociologically, as is typical in juveniles, authorities are too readily persuaded by logic and obvious best interests--people are largely driven by emotions, and seldom act in their own best interests--especially long term. People generally go for the apparent short-term benefits. Few in authority will take an action unless they are convinced that it is their own idea--regardless of how good the plan may be....to think otherwise is to be overly hopeful and dreaming...but it is fantasy....
It is very unlikely that people living in the world described would not have established. navigational markers on the ice; and they would certainly have established warnings around such a dangerous crevasse--in particular if they were ignorant of compasses. Not to mention that sailing quite far from landmarks becomes fairly easy if one builds a line of marker cairns, each within the sight of two others.
Any such problems as raiders and the Horde would have, at the least, have been tracked down and their general if not specific hiding areas known--they do leave tracks, and at some point it's economically worth the time and risk.
On a smaller level, like most juvenile fiction this book almost totally avoids the aspect of life which occupies the vast majority of teenagers and young adults--sexuality. This is not 'part' of a teen's world--it's the center, from 13-14 to mid-20's it's difficult to get them to think about much of anything other than food & sex.
The idea that a pair of teens 15-18, in a society which considers them adults at 16 would live in a small ship's cabin for days on end together and not at some point get physical (if only sharing a bunk for warmth,) flies in the face of experience.
I enjoyed the book, and despite it's factual flaws, I recommend it solely because the story itself is good.
As a story it rates ***** but as SF it rates **
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