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2 Ratings: 3.5
A book by Nick Sagan

Billed as a near-future thriller, Sagan's first novel plods through terrain all too familiar to SF readers. The narrator awakens with amnesia in a mysterious realm easily identified as a computer-generated virtual reality, fraught with metaphors and … see full wiki

Tags: Book
Author: Nick Sagan
Publisher: Putnam Adult
1 review about Idlewild

Sharp, original, and fun

  • Mar 29, 2005
The first 20 or 30 pages of "Idlewild" frankly had me wondering if I should bother reading the rest of the book. The characters and situations seemed just a bit fake, and the early premise seemed trite. Now, having stuck it out and read the whole book, I think that was intentional. The odd beginning sets up expectations for the reader early on, and then the story carries on to improve upon itself almost constantly. By the end, I was left fairly impressed and pleased with a book I hadn't been sure I wanted to finish at all.

"Idlewild" is a story of some gifted kids living a mostly virtual existence, a world they can shape to meet their own needs and whims, and in which they can't ever really be hurt. It is in this virtual world where they receive their education and are protected. That is, until one of them is hurt in a power surge and loses all of his memory. The rest of the book consists of Halloween, the protagonist, rediscovering who he is through his interactions with the other students, his parents, his virtual Nanny, and the virtual instructor Maestro. As he discovers more about himself, he also discovers more than he ever knew about the world in which he exists, and why he's there.

Sagan does a nice job of creating different worlds in "Idlewild," peeling back each layer of reality like the layers of an onion, keeping the readers always a little uncertain about the meaning of what's going on. While the story of Halloween and the other students is the main focus of the novel, there is another story that runs parallel to it, one which doesn't really become clear until halfway through the book. By the time I understood what was going on, I was hooked into the story and anxious to see how it came out.

Sagan's writing isn't great, but it is serviceable with moments of true talent. The characters, seeming a little flat early on, are given life and depth as the story progresses, and evolve beyond their stereotypes. The prose is mostly transparent and unpretentious, allowing the story to spin out naturally, a style which works nicely.

When I read that Nick Sagan was the son of the late astronomer and writer Carl Sagan, I wasn't sure what to think. I was pleased to find that Nick has at least made the attempt to forge ahead in some original territory, unlike what his father wrote of in his fiction or scientific work. Even better, Nick's attempt was laregly successful, and has resulted in a fun book that's an easy read but not a shallow one. The ideas are thought-provoking and original, the story is entertaining and will keep you turning the pages. Not bad at all for a first-timer.

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"Sharp, original, and fun"
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