- Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
- Publisher: Solaris (May 28, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1781081174
- ISBN-13: 978-1781081174
- Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.2 x 6.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,629,774 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Life on the Preservation Mass Market Paperback – May 28, 2013
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About the Author
Jack Skillingstead grew up in a working class neighborhood south of Seattle. He dropped out of college to work in a cannery in Alaska, later tarevlling to Maine and then returning to the Pacific northwest. In 2000 Skillingstead won a writing competition sponsored by Stephen King and his hs first professional sale was a finalist for the Sturgeon Award in 2004. Since then he has published more than thirty short stories in publications including Asimov's, F&SF and Realms of Fantasy. His work has also appeared in various Year's Best volumes as well as the acclaimed Fast Forward and Solaris series of original anthologies. His first novel,Harbinger and short story collection Are You There both appeared in 2009 and received critical acclaim.
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Jack Skillingstead is aware of all this, both the story potential and the fact that the concept is not, yet, tapped out. Life on The Preservation, based on Skillingstead’s 2006 short story of the same name, is set in Seattle on a single day in 2012 that keeps repeating. Ian, a twenty something graffiti artist who is still coping with the suicide of his mother when he was a young boy, is made aware of the time loop by his gamer friend Zach.
But that’s only part of the story. Unwilling to cover similar ground to other writers who've played in the Groundhog Day sandpit, Skillingstead decides to throw an alien invasion, post-humanism, post apocalyptic Earth and time travel (beyond just the loop) into the mix.
A couple of these science fiction tropes are picked up in the story-line that, for the first half of the novel, runs alongside Ian’s plight in Seattle. We’re told the story of Kylie and her struggle to survive in a post apocalyptic Earth where most of the population is either dead or dying from a plague. Kylie happens to be the one healthy person in town, which angers the local lunatic, Father Jim. He decides that the only way to deal with Kylie and her health is to circumcise her. After escaping Father Jim’s clutches, Kylie and her sick boyfriend decide to make their toward the strange dome covering Seattle.
Of the two story-lines, Ian’s section is the more intriguing mostly because of the Groundhog Day phenomena and partly because of hints of an alien presence that might be manipulating events.
The sections involving Kylie are not as gripping. This isn't the fault of Kylie who I found to be the strongest character in the novel, but rather the post apocalyptic setting which is really no different than any other post apocalyptic setting I’ve encountered. It’s not helped by Father Jim, the mustache twirling villain of the piece who is quite happy to employ sexual violence (he’d previously raped Kylie before the apocalypse) just to show us how bad he is. It’s all a bit tasteless and generic and if not for Kylie’s unwillingness to relent, or for that matter the sections dealing with Ian and Seattle, I’m not sure I could have continued with the book.
Things do rocket along though and in Part Two of the novel Kylie and Ian meet. A love story ensues, which while predictable makes sense within the context of the novel. Sadly for Ian, and the novel, Kylie vanishes seemingly taking the plot with her. The book stalls for the second half of Part Two as the Groundhog Day element again comes to the foreground and Ian and his friends (including his sister) go back to treading the same old ground – is this all real? Will I remember what happened during the previous time loop?
Fortunately things pick up again in Part Three. I won’t explain how why, but the actual climax is more then satisfying. Even the re-emergence of Father Jim isn't as annoying as I thought it might be.
Overall, while Life on The Preservation could have lost its flabby middle and done without Father Jim and his penchant for female circumcision, the mash-up of SFnal ideas and some decent character work makes for an entertaining read. I’m interested to see what Skillingstead does next.