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The Girl in the Hourglass by Drew Bittner
Cover Artist: Angela McKendrick
Review by Paul Haggerty
eSpec Books Kindle Edition  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781942990130
Date: 31 August 2015

Links: Publisher / Show Official Info /

In the real world, many children are, genetically speaking, ticking time bombs. Through no fault of their own, they manage to get just the wrong combination of traits from their parents that will make their lives a daily roll of the dice just to stay healthy, or even alive. In The Girl in the Hourglass, Kyrie Maxwell's situation takes this unfortunate medical nightmare and turns the euphemism into something quite literally explosive.

A generation ago, the world was under attack by an enemy known as the Jabberwock. Just what this enemy was and where it came from is left as something of a mystery in the scope of the story, but it is known that they were highly scientifically advanced, and humanity's continued existence was in doubt. In order to fight back against what was clearly a superior force, humanity reversed engineered some of the Jabberwock's genetic technology, creating superheroes with all the wild, wonderful, and downright weird powers of the comic books. With the Supers on humanity's side, victory was finally achieved, but still at a great price.

The technology to create the supers worked, but it was not without its drawbacks, limitations, and side effects. One of these side effects was that some of the children of two supers would have unstable genetics, leading to a condition call double-red. The prognosis for these children was a near 100% certainty that they would die before their 18th birthday, usually exploding in some highly energetic way.

The Girl in the Hourglass is a story told from the point of view of Kyrie Maxwell, one of these double-reds. It's told in the the form of a series of on-line diary entries where Kyrie talks about what's happening to her and her friends, how she copes with her impending death, the heartbreak of losing her friends one by one, and her reactions to the adults in her life who, while meaning only the best, still manage to drive her insane.

Kyrie is in almost all respects a normal teenage girl, living with a death sentence she did nothing to deserve, trying to live as normal a life as she can. While the world may have indestructible men, women with super strength, and boys that somehow manifest rollercoaster cars (and tracks) to fly around in the sky, Kyrie has no powers, no special abilities, and no world changing talents. She is just a teenager who wants to go the mall with her friends, find a decent boy to date, and graduate from high school. The frustrations she feels, while caused by abnormally extreme forces, are not so different in their impacts on her life than any teenager from our reality.

The outcome of the book, and Kyrie's ultimate fate, is never telegraphed to the reader. As you draw closer to the final pages, the tension rises. Will Kyrie, a character you've come to know and identify with, the daughter of two superheroes, be able to beat the odds, or will she finally succumb like the rest of her peers and become just another statistic? Pay close attention to the final paragraphs. While important in their own right to the story as a whole, they point out another universal truth, especially one of fictional universes. Stated facts are not always actually facts. What people believe to be true, may not be. And what you thought you saw may not always be what really happened.

The Girl in the Hourglass is a thought provoking story, and I eagerly look forward to the promised sequel.

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