Monday, February 27, 2012

Contingencies: In praise of a young talent


Last year Thomas White wrote his science fiction novel, Contingencies. He was all of fourteen years old.   He is a classmate of my son's and I have known him for years.  We would often discuss what books we were reading, which authors we preferred---you know, chatter allowed between a parent and a teenager.  I'm not sure we made eye contact, but I knew we both ate up books with the same relish.  All this time, however, I never knew he could write.  It boggles my mind that such talent is housed in such a young person. Reading Contingencies, I felt what it was like to read my first Bradbury or Asimov.

Picking up Thomas' book instantly challenged me. He is efficient and economical in his writing, while at the same time pulling the reader into the narrative in a highly unique way.  There is a wonderful scene early on where the citizens of the moon colony are watching artifacts being loaded off a shuttle.  The items have come from Earth as a war is raging on the planet.  What is known and unknown about these artifacts speaks volumes about where the colonists are in time.

In the age of insipid formula-driven narratives, cliched characters, and derivative plots, this book read like a breath of fresh air.

Last night, lighters were given out as favors at the Vanity Fair Oscar party bearing a quote from the late and great Christopher Hitchens.  “Everyone has a book inside them, which is exactly where I think it should, in most cases, remain.”  For Thomas White this is not the case.  Hopefully Contingencies will be the first of many.

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