David's Reviews > Gunpowder

Gunpowder by Joe Hill
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's review
Mar 20, 2010

really liked it
Read from March 20 to 21, 2010

Welcome to R2, a hostile planet where the deserts where at least a third sulphur and sodium nitrate, the ingredients of Gunpowder. It is home to thirty special boys and Elaine, their handler, who they call Mom.
All the boys, apart from Charley, have a Talent for changing the world so it can provide food for worlds. It is what they’re created for, so what happens when they have ideas of their own, or the military want them to create a weapons supply planet because of a terror attack?

In Gunpowder, Joe Hill has created a lean, fat-free, entertaining story with themes that echoes the 9/11 attacks, and growing up with the notion that you can create anything with your life – an idea instilled from a young age –this time literally:
“Jackson said the skyboats had been hijacked by solar extremists… They had grievances. They said what had happened to Killian was holy and just and was only the beginning.”
“Their powers were engineered to burnout in their twenties, a harrowing passage that would kill several of them…”
There are more subtle musings on the nature of love, bonds between people, as well as cruelty, and destructiveness.

At age fourteen, the boys are starting to come into their own. Their creations are wondrous, but dangerous too. Jake has just created grass in the desert, with each blade literally being blades sharp enough to cut through leather.
If there is something I wonder about, it is how the boys learned swear words, or even think of dangerous things, but I suppose a full education is the best way to fuel imagination.

Verdict: The main cast of characters had distinct natures, and behaved believably like children, and their mother, and the novella has some of the best action sequences, and imagery I’ve imagined (probably helped along by the wonderful cover, even though the Gunpowder in my mind looked different). The length of the story ensured that it doesn’t have any excess, but runs a wide spectrum, and lives up to the maxim: Always leave them wanting more.
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