This novel combines science fiction and the fantastical, using the best of the two to create a complex, layered plot.
Another Place, by Jodie M. Swanson, is a novel that mixes the concrete with the conceptual. The combination of intense characterization with government conspiracies and sci-fi action creates a high-momentum plot with as many questions as answers.
Rebecca, mother of two, wakes up in a government facility after being in a coma for three years. During that time, her consciousness existed in a dream world that mirrored her own reality, but with the addition of a powerful energy that she could manipulate; it was the same world she’d dreamed of as a child. During her coma she was reunited with her doppelgänger, whom Rebecca refers to as “Two.” When she awakes, she is thrust into a dangerous world of conspiracies, threats, and a government that wants to keep her prisoner to use her mental abilities. Another Place leaps between Rebecca’s world and Two’s—each brimming with a mysterious energy that the government desperately wants to weaponize.
Another Place draws from both the fantastical and the technological to propel its plot. The main settings are Two’s dream world and the government facility where Rebecca is a prisoner. The characters’ dreams are layered into those two locations until it becomes difficult to distinguish what is a dream and what is Two’s world, and which dreams Two and Rebecca are manipulating and which ones they are experiencing. The facility housing Rebecca’s children, Jay and Joanna, adds another setting, and the plot alternates between all of them. The story jumps settings with little transition—for example, one chapter begins in Two’s dream, transitions to the facility keeping Jay and Joanna safe, and ends in Rebecca’s cell—and the effect is dizzying.
The main and supporting characters are what grounds the more conceptual elements of the novel. Rebecca and Two make up the main narrative and are the emotional backbone of the story. Their commentary makes the struggle against vague threats and government conspiracies personal. Rebecca’s voice is particularly effective as she describes her reaction to being held prisoner, the loss of her children, and the frailty of her body. The supporting characters are equally fleshed out, and Swanson does an excellent job of making clear delineations between them, making for a rich array of unique characters. The characters’ clear motivations keep the complexity of the plot from becoming overwhelming.
Swanson opens the novel in medias res. The resulting lack of concrete information creates confusion that never gets resolved. Questions posed at the beginning—how Rebecca controls dreams, what this energy is, who is hunting her family, what her time in Two’s world was like—are not explained, and even more questions arise as the plot progresses.
Another Place is written in present tense and largely in first person, which enhances characterization, although the action scenes become stilted. The dialogue is also colloquial, making the characters relatable in a plot that depends on the fantastical. Words are sometimes added or dropped, the tense changes, and there are punctuation mistakes.
The novel combines science fiction and the fantastical, using the best of the two to create a complex, layered plot. Another Place features both genuine emotion and intense action.
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