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Fantasy Turns Into Science Fiction in "Atherton"

  • Robin Parrish Infuze Magazine
  • 2007 4 Apr
  • COMMENTS
Fantasy Turns Into Science Fiction in "Atherton"

Author:  Patrick Carman
Title:  "Atherton:  The House of Power"       
Publisher:  Little, Brown Young Readers

Patrick Carman's "Atherton" is one of those brilliant little ideas that, as soon as you read it, you'll wish you'd thought of it first. I sure do.

Edgar is a special boy with a secret, who lives in a world called Atherton. Atherton is made up of three concentric circles, each at a different elevation than the others, so that the largest is at the bottom, and the smallest is at the top. Edgar lives in the middle elevation, a place called Tabletop, but like everyone in Tabletop, he often wonders about the beautiful Highlands above, and the forboding Flatlands far below. Edgar's story is set into motion when the Highlands mysteriously begin to sink into Tabletop.

A gifted climber, it isn't long before Edgar scales the cliffs separating the two realms, and makes a fast friend there who lives in the House of Power, where the ruling class resides. As the Highlands continue to descend, a mystery begins to unfold surrounding Edgar's past and Atherton's origins, and soon Edgar's world is filled out with a rich, intriguing cast of characters.

The chief conceit of the book is that, like so many fantasy novels, the characters live in this "elsewhere" world called Atherton that could never exist in real life. Or so we want to believe. Carman cleverly takes this preconceived notion we the readers bring into his story and turns it on its head, so that by the end, you'll realize you're not reading a fantasy at all, but science fiction. Which is all I should really say, lest I give far too much away.

Suffice it to say, the surprises just keep coming right up until the very end, and it's all tremendously clever.



© 2007 Infuze Magazine
.  All rights reserved.  Used with permission.