Sunday, February 1, 2009

Daylight Runner

by Oisin Mcgann
Reviewed by Nancy Horner

Daylight Runner (originally published as Small-Minded Giants) tells the story of Solomon Wheat. Sol and his father live in a huge, domed city called Ash Harbor, a haven built into the crater of a volcano when Earth was plunged into an Ice Age toward the end of the 21st Century. Over 100 years have passed since Ash Harbor was established, and things aren't running as smoothly as they used to.

When teenage Sol's father disappears after being accused of murder and two strangers attack the teen in his apartment, Sol goes in search of his father. But, asking too many questions in Ash Harbor is dangerous. The entire city is powered by the Machine and there is talk that the Machine is protected by dangerous people known as the Clockworkers. With all of its residents dependent upon the Machine, those who control Ash Harbor's energy possess enormous power.

Suspicious accidents and disappearances along with posts about impending doom placed on the web by a small band of rebels stir up discontent among citizens. But, are the rumors enough to promote change? As Sol searches for the truth about his father, with the help of a frightening ally who claims to be a friend of Sol's father, Gregor Wheat, Sol and his friend Cleo discover that not only their lives are in danger, but the entire city may be on the verge of disaster. Forced to run for their lives, Sol and Cleo decide the only way out is to come up with a plan. But, the Clockworkers are ever-present and time is running out.

Wow. Daylight Runner is one heck of a ride. Once Sol realizes his father is missing -- accused of a murder Sol is sure he would not have committed -- and Sol is swept up in the deadly game of unraveling the mystery of his father's disappearance, there is almost no time to breathe. Sol ends up with a truly scary, possibly psychopathic man named Maslow helping him navigate the underground and rooftops of the city. Eventually, Cleo is swept into the life-threatening intrigue when she tries to help Sol dig for answers.

What I loved about the book is that it was packed with action and I liked the characters. It was easy to root for them. There are a few characters, including Maslow, who fit into a gray area. You never know whether they're truly good or bad guys until the end. The Machine is a rather complex thing and it took me a while to grasp the idea of a world in which trams are carried by cranes. Somehow that didn't seem very futuristic to me. But, eventually, the author explains how the movement of people, trams, and automobiles is all a part of the working of the Machine that keeps them alive. Everything is perfectly balanced. The world of Ash Harbor is really an amazing, fascinating creation.

On the other hand, I didn't love that Daylight Runner is loaded with violence and Cleo is a drug user. Sol has no choice but to kill in self-defense, Cleo is willing to take risks to get her hands on some "stem" to smoke . . . it's horrifying, at times, although I think every little bit of what happens feeds so well into the plot that it's hard to criticize. There were times I wished something good would happen so that as a reader I could have a bit of a breather from the intensity level, but as I closed the book it just seemed to me that the storyline worked brilliantly and any soft moments thrown into the mix might have actually ruined the ominous atmosphere.

In general, Daylight Runner is such a breathtaking thrill ride that I highly recommend it. But, do be aware of the violence and intensity level if you're considering acquiring this book for a youngster. I'd say high school age is about the minimum (my opinion only). Adults who like sci-fi, fantasy, futuristic and dystopian novels will probably also enjoy it. The world of Ash Harbor is a dark and terrifying place and things keep growing worse until the end -- an ending which I personally found extraordinarily satisfying. Some might think it's wrapped up a little too neatly, but not this reader.

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