three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
51-Mar-Apr-2011
user_rating: 
0

A-LightbornTricia Sullivan's novels include Lethe (1995), Dreaming in Smoke (1999), and Double Vision (2005). She has also published fantasy under the name Valery Leith.

The Story: A new technology has gotten out of control and fried the brains of most of humanity. Called Shine, it uses light waves to directly interface with the brain, providing education and entertainment to anyone who can afford it. But Shine has gone wrong, and now nearly all the adults in the fictional city of Los Sombres have come down with a strange cross between obsessive-compulsive disorder and homicidal violence. Fortunately, children who have not gone through puberty (like Xavier) and a small segment of the adult population (like Roksana) can't use Shine, giving our heroes a chance to figure out their place in a fallen world.
Orbit. 464 pages. $14. ISBN: 9781841494074

Guardian (UK) 4 of 5 Stars
"Sullivan is brilliant at presenting convincing near-future scenarios peopled by heart-breakingly real characters--Roksana and Xavier are made to suffer terribly throughout the narrative--and leaves the explication of the technology in the background while concentrating on the human consequences of its malfunction." Eric Brown

SFX.com 4 of 5 Stars
"Teenagers Roksana and Xavier survive as best they can in and around the ruined city. But for each of them the most difficult thing--and the heart of this compelling, imaginative, and often discomfiting novel--is learning to care for spaced-out, self-destructive parents who don't always recognise them." Nic Clarke

Strange Horizons 3.5 of 5 Stars
"This is a text that recognizes that one of the key features of human evolution is the degree to which cooperation enables us to climb beyond the limitations of soft hands and blunt teeth. Lightborn shows us a world in which the argument is about what kinds of cooperation work best (top down or bottom up, anarchic or authoritarian, amongst others), and has little truck with the more individualistic ends of the anarcho-libertarian spectrum." Farah Mendlesohn

Telegraph (UK) 3 of 5 Stars
"Sullivan does a good line in spirited teenage heroines. ... The story suffers from a flaw: the technology is never plausibly explained, nor why humankind would enslave itself this way. This makes the book hard to fully engage with." Eric Brown

Critical Summary

Reviewers generally admired Sullivan's new spin on the fairly common postapocalyptic device of a world without functional adults. They noted that as with several recent SF novels with young characters (like Mira Grant's Feed and The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins) Sullivan forces her protagonists to face some very adult pain. Critics were somewhat divided on her world-building, however; some found the ubiquity of the Shine technology implausible, while others felt it to be a realistic representation of the near future. But despite such disagreements, critics agreed that Lightborn is worth looking into.