JB Dutton, 206 pgs, johnbdutton.wordpress.com, $12.60
The second part of JB Dutton’s Embodied trilogy, Starley’s Rust continues the story of the ill-fortuned Kari Marriner, a 17-year old high school student who has found herself at the centre of a web of global conspiracy, cults, and even supernatural beings from another universe. Those beings, known as the Embodied, masquerade themselves as humans formed of a peculiar symmetry, with motivations that could either spell doom for Kari’s universe or usher its salvation. And after they kidnap her mother, Kari has no choice but to work to unravel a mystery encompassing something much bigger than the small world she once knew.
Though Kari’s story in the first book of the trilogy, Silent Symmetry, took place exclusively in New York City, Kari’s adventure in Starley’s Rust covers more ground. This time, she gets to explore the city of Paris alongside the titular Starley, an eccentric but charming British artist who somehow has a detailed understanding of the Embodied and their plans for the universe.
Dutton is in his element crafting together a sci-fi adventure with a good blend of sincerity and humour that, without such a fine balance, can be the downfall of any YA fiction. Of course there are some frustrating flaws, from the occasional pages of dense exposition to Kari’s cringe-worthy “oh-em-gees” and other faux teen-speak which, as a rule, no adult can write convincingly. But the universe (or universes) Dutton has created is sufficiently compelling, with a good dose of the fantastical to keep things interesting: “The dragon closed its wings. Its tongue flicked the air, tasting it… and, I realized with horror, smelling us.” Ultimately, Starley’s Rust is an imaginative and pleasurable read for any sci-fi fan. (Paul Rocca)