AUTHOR: Richard Paul Russo
First things first. Russo can write. This science fiction novel was wonderfully written, and fairly evocative. The story starts with a spaceship under attack. It crashes and 5-year-old Cale survives and must watch his nanny, Sidonie, raped and killed before he is hauled off by the nomads who rescued him. On the wrong side of the Divide on Conrad's World, Cale grows up with criminals who treat him as their slave. Beaten, he seems to be living day to day until he can finally escape.
Cale seems both purposeful and without purpose as he moves through his life, marching across Conrad's World until he can make the crossing to the other side and yet, taking his time. He refuses the help of an imposing trader, Blackburn, whose path he crosses more than once. When he finds the mysterious, alien book on the during his travels before he can cross to the other side of the planet, his destiny is set even if he does not yet know it.
Cale's lack of connection to a place or people, except for a very few is both the book's strength and its weakness. Cale is driven to do something and he won't let others prevent him from achieving it, whatever it is. Gradually, his path becomes clear, and by book's end, he's fulfilled his destiny. And yet, he remains partly an enigma. Because of his aloofness, he remained distant from at least from this reader. The end seemed a bit too pat, a bit too inevitable, which is fine, but my lack of really coming to care for Cale kept me from really loving this book and I wanted to so much because Russo is that good a writer.
I suppose we're not supposed to connect with Cale. Perhaps, we're supposed to feel his disconnection to most people, the lack of a true home, because of all he's been through, but it comes off too flat. Still, I'd read more books by Russo, if only to discover if my lack of empathy for Cale will be repeated with his other protagonists.