Warner Aspect / 417 pages / October 2003
Most authors attempt a coming-of-age novel sometime in their career, but few are brave enough to risk an act-your-age book. Especially not with a protagonist like Ryan Azarcon, who you just wish someone would pound the tar out of at times. Whiny rich kids… Imagine what a feat it is that Lowachee not only keeps you reading through his overbearing behaviour, but actually manages to see him come out the other side of his misadventures a better, more insightful human being — all without the sudden flash of wisdom and understanding that frequently turns mawkish on those novelists that take such a chance. Ryan makes the journey one grudging step at a time and arrives a better person, but far from a perfect one. How refreshingly realistic.
With Burndive, Lowachee returns to the world she created in Warchild, but this time the central character is the perpetually pissed-off Ryan Arzacon — son of the ungovernable captain of the Macedonand champion in the fight against pirates and the alien “strits”, descendant of diplomats and media targets — who wants nothing more than to crawl into a drug-induced coma and ignore the strife around him. Unfortunately, the warring factors have no intention of leaving Ryan out of it; a bomb attack on Earth and an assassination attempt on Austro put him squarely in the line of fire.
To make matters worse, his family has plans that will take him far away from home and into a new world. Whether he likes it or not. And he may even learn something along the journey.
The power of Lowachee’s story lies in two impressive juggling acts. There is the complex love-hate relationships — not just among family but even at the war front. The reader is often as confused as Ryan about the truth in a complicated and deadly situation. It is impossible, at times, to discern friend from foe. In fact, sometimes, he learns, the answer can be both. And Lowachee’s willingness to let a story spin out with as much time as it takes; Ryan’s growing understanding proceeds in infinitesimal steps that slow add up to a change in his views and core beliefs. Growing up is a slow and often painful process that proceeds at its own speed, not in a rush to reach the climax and turn the last page.
Make no mistake, though, Burndive travels on rockets, not leaden footsteps, moving inexorably to either a new chance for humanity or its destruction. If humans are to survive and progress, humanity will need to take the same rocky path to a glimmer of enlightenment that Ryan must face.
Burndive is all about the need for change and the knee-jerk reflex of resistance. If you read Lowachee’s debut novel, so much the better and deeper your understanding. Don’t be scared off in you haven’t read Warchild though, this novel works perfectly well as a stand-alone. Just don’t be surprised if you find yourself itching to know every detail and reaching for that first installment.