I downloaded C.J. Omololu’s new book Transcendence because I heard it featured a biracial character and yet (gasp!) was not about being biracial. That turned out to be true, but it also turned out to be a pretty interesting and fresh story, albeit with some holes and lack of development. I’ve been trying to write this post for awhile, and I still can’t really figure out what I think of the book or how to approach talking about it, since I don’t do summary book reviews unless I’m writing for a different website.
So, in the fewest words possible, the story is about a girl who begins having hallucinations. Except they turn out to be memories–of her past lives. She meets Griffon, the aforementioned biracial character, who has that ability/curse also. They’re called Akhet, and they’re part of a group of people who are not only reincarnated (apparently everyone is) but who actually remember who they were in the past. Now that Cole, the main character, is becoming Akhet, she realizes that it’s not only a mindfuck–it also puts you in the position of having a feeling when you’re around other Akhet.
Obviously, this means that, as Cole remembers her past lives, she realizes that someone must be very angry at her–if only she knew who and why and what to do about it.
So, done with the plot? Good. Here’s what is good about this book: cool idea, unorthodox characterizations (Cole is a cellist and a child prodigy, until she starts to question what her talent all means if she was actually a well trained concert cellist in a past life; Griffon is biracial and also, his mother is Akhet, but her soul is actually younger, so they have an interesting relationship–lots of awesome metaphors and symbols to work with here!), magic realism/speculative fiction approach rather than all-out SFF… Good stuff, all. Actually, now that I think of it, I really like this book. I think you should read it. But there are a couple things I want to criticize.
Here’s the part where I complain about how publishers and editors and the market are effectively RUINING the literature that is YA by insisting on series format for everything that’s not realism, and a lot of the time for realism, too. Because my great criticism with this book is it’s too short, and that not everything is tied up or even appropriately dealt with. I understand that if someone’s had a lot of past lives, they can’t deal with all of them. But this is a book, so don’t put stuff there if you’re not going to deal with it! The story starts in England, when Cole recalls her own beheading, but that life isn’t actually all that important, except for the cheesy and (as nearly always, in YA) less than believable romance that it inspires. I imagine that might be touched upon in the forthcoming sequel, but this would be a more cohesive work if it were just one good novel instead of a book that’s cool and that dangles carrots for no reason except to ensure that you remember a year from now to pick up the next installment. I do not like that about contemporary publishing and I never will. Fuck you, people enforcing that.
Also, the title is horrendous, and it in no way actually occurs in the book. If anything, the book is about how, no matter what, we’re all the same screwy humans we always are, and we’ll keep toiling away in that tikkun olam-y way indefinitely. Unless that was Omololu’s point. Hmmm….
In all seriousness, though, this isn’t a concept book that sacrifices literary quality for a cool idea, and that’s excellent. Check it out.