Jessica's Reviews > Idlewild

Idlewild by Nick Sagan
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May 29, 2007

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“There are no miracles. Not for you, certainly not for me. Not for any of us.”

Author Nick Sagan is the son of astronomer Carl Sagan. As a boy in the 1970s, Nick’s greeting, “Hello from the children of planet Earth,” was recorded for NASA’s Voyager Golden Record (a phonograph with audio and visuals depicting human life) and sent into space for aliens to discover. So it is only fitting that Nick Sagan’s first novel fits snugly into the sci-fi fantasy genre.

Idlewild is the story of 19-year-old Halloween (birth name Gabriel), who wakes one day with no memory of his life or surroundings. The world seems oddly…off. The people he meets are just as bizarre. Slowly, he begins to recover aspects his memory and realizes that he is one of ten students in a futuristic virtual school, taught and cared for by computer programs. Similar to the Matrix, he and his classmates are actually (physically) plugged into virtual reality equipment in the real world, where their bodies are nourished. Their minds, however, are fed within the virtual system. However, one student is missing, presumed dead, and Halloween suspects he is next.

Interspersed with the story of Halloween and his eight strange friends is that of three scientists attempting to save humanity from an early 21st century plague called the Black Ep. The relation between both storylines is revealed throughout the book.

The plot starts out strong and shows potential as a dystopian, cyber-punk novel, but falls apart halfway through. Neil Gaiman called this book a “roller coaster ride” of a story, but I think that’s just his nice way of saying the book takes too many quick, sloppy turns. An element of surprise is always welcome in fiction, but Idlewild becomes choppy – as though Sagan couldn’t decide where he wanted to take the plot. The climax seems to come out of nowhere and doesn’t quite satisfy, while the ending is too rushed.

Such faults could possibly be overlooked if Sagan’s writing compensated for the plot flaws, but sadly that disappoints as well. The characterization of Halloween is a trifle cliché (typical angst-ridden teenage goth boy), and the other characters are never fully developed.

That said, the idea behind the story is provocative, and despite its poor execution in this first book, there might be enough potential to be continued. I read the excerpt included of its sequel, Edenborn, and the post-apocalyptic vibe did spark some curiosity in me. If Sagan improved his writing style and got all the kinks out, Edenborn might be worth reading. I would, however, skip Idlewild and watch the first Matrix movie instead.
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