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Pilgrimage: A Novel of the Sovereign Era Kindle Edition
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This second book starts a year later. People are unsure they like the idea of super-humans and there’s a backlash movement growing. Nate’s father needs held handling his abilities and needs to go to the Sovereign enclave in Montana to find it. Nate needs to find his father to help deal with his own abilities and his out of control emotions as well.
At 16, Nate is horny, he’s constantly mad at his mom, he’s constantly mad at authority figures; basically, he’s a 16yo boy. He’s still voiced as a normal boy but he comes across much less sympathetic in Pilgrimage than in Brave Men Run. I found myself wanting to shake him – a lot.
The anti-Sovereign backlash as a secondary storyline is interesting but also is very reminiscent of an X-men sub-plot. What I liked about the first book was Selznick took what is essentially the premise of the mutants in the Marvel Universe and made them feel personal and at the same time new. I saw the parallel from the beginning but it wasn’t over emphasized so it didn’t detract. With this storyline added in, I felt like I was reading about the anti-Mutant forces gathering outside the Xavier School.
The climax had some startling elements to it and the story took some turns I completely wasn’t expecting. I didn’t really understand the ending, however. If this is the last book, it’s a bad place to end; if it’s a trilogy and not a duology, then it’s a typical place to end. I hope I don’t have to wait 6-years to find out.
What is particularly well done is the way in which the author sets the tragedy in motion. There are people and groups on a slow, inevitable collision course, and we, the readers, can see it (because we get multiple viewpoints), but the characters can't. It reminded me of Ben Rovik's The Mask And The Master, which does something very similar.
One of those characters is, of course, Nate Charters, the main character of the first book. In that book, he was a sympathetic character, bullied for being different, finally having something good happen to him, but he did have a tendency to make stupid decisions that led to tragic violence. In this book, it's the stupid decisions leading to tragic violence that are the prominent aspect of his character, the decisions are more stupid and the violence is more tragic, and he ends up less sympathetic as a result.
Other reviewers have commented that Nate is not necessarily the most interesting character any more, either. I'd agree with that in the first part of the book, in which his big issue is that his girlfriend won't have sex with him, while the other characters are concerned with larger problems. As the book progresses, though, and he too becomes entangled in the larger problems, his story becomes more significant.
Just as important, though, are the stories of Byron Teslowski and his father Marc. I was surprised (and pleased) to see that Marc, who started out in the previous book as a harsh, punitive father and a bit of a troglodyte, got a whole character arc, and a very good one too. Alongside the powerful conflicts he sets up, the author's great strength is in developing rounded characters, and by the end of this book Marc is one.
Apart from some proofing issues which I've passed on to the author, my only problem with this one (that wasn't a matter of taste) was the convenient discovery of some notes by one character that told him where other characters were going and how he could connect up with them. It seemed a bit like a written version of the Convenient Eavesdrop trope, which is always a bit of an eye-roller for me. I can't really see how he could have got round it, though.
I'd say that technically, and in terms of craft, this is a better and stronger book than its predecessor. It deserves at least a 6, perhaps a 7, on my 0-to-9 subscale of 4-star books (where 0 is "barely above mediocre" and 9 is "just short of amazing"). It wasn't the best book for my personal taste, though, as I mentioned earlier, so subjectively I'd score it lower.