by Nirina StoneWhat happens when you don't belong in a place of safety? Sidney's Escape is the second book set in the harsh post-apocalyptic world of domes on the distant planet of Allendia, where a virus has caused widespread death and chaos. This story starts with a flashback to just before the crisis, and a scientist who worked in the shiny, clean, conformist and dull Red Dome. But when a new flu arrived in the neighbouring Blue Dome things changed rapidly and he was faced with hard decisions.
Back to events after Petra, in the Blue Dome we follow a group of mismatched companions as they try to escape their circumstances. Civilisation here has broken down and assassin bots, deadly acid rain, and marauding raiders are just a few of the regular problems for people trying to survive. Henry is adjusting to becoming part cyborg, and is intent on leaving behind his life as a raider. The young Sidney is used to being alone, and finds it strange to be with anyone other than her mother. But she is determined to get away. Neither Sidney nor Henry really trust Gideon, an older man who knows a lot and who the others suspect is hiding things from them. But if they are to make a getaway, they will have to trust someone.
The Blue Dome, inhospitable at the best of times, has become yet more dangerous. So our companions are racing against time and battling against a variety of natural and technological threats. Surviving between the domes is another challenge in a hostile alien landscape not adapted for humans, where much that people built before the flu crisis has been allowed to decay. So there's a lot of scope for edge of the seat thrills and spills, and the author doesn't squander these opportunities.
The narrative switches point of view between several main characters. This switch of perspective emphasises the growing bond between characters who are very different. Sidney is still a child, although she has had to see and endure too much. For much of the novel she is grieving Petra, the artificial intelligence robot that was sent to assassinate her, yet who she formed an unexpected friendship with.
The story is lightened when Sidney picks up a cute animal, and then tries to hide it in her backpack so that she won't be forced to leave it behind. The tone of this book is a little more cheerful and sweet than the first book in the series, and it is somewhat less brutal. In their quest to find a better place to live there is a lot of running, problem solving, and excitement, and overall the plot is fairly simple. Learning to trust people and make friends is one of the major themes.
This is a shorter novel, and as the middle part of a story it's not suitable to read as a stand-alone book. Yet it kept me turning pages to discover what would become of this increasingly likeable and nuanced group of characters, whether human or otherwise.
3rd June 2020
Review © Ros Jackson
Source: own copy