I did not like this book. And I’m saying this because it took me two tries to read it.
But, I want to figure out why this book was so bad. Why I disliked it so much. I mean, this read like a textbook, and it had the same effect on me. I kept falling asleep while reading it, which is saying something. I kept trying to snack to keep me awake—it’s a bad habit.
So let’s break this geode open. Except that’s a shitty metaphor because geode implies something pretty. So, let’s make it a shitty geode. Heh.
Still using the same rubric as before.
WRITING STYLE 4
I’m going to argue that this is one of the better parts of the book. While the perspective yields a weak drive, leading to an uncompelling story, the style of writing feels fully developed. There is good sentence variation, which can be seen below, and some nicely written scenes, an example of which is below.
At one time, Selena would have bumped her in the ribs again and whispered: “Alien.” Alien-spotting was a game they used to play all the time, back when Julie was fourteen and Selena was twelve and they were both obsessed with The X-Files. Anyone they happened to see who was wearing odd clothes or acting strangely, they would raise their eyebrows knowingly then race around the corner and collapse into giggles. Selena remembered sometimes laughing so hard there were tears in her eyes. She didn’t believe these people were aliens, not really, but a part of her felt excited by the possibility that they could be. What she enjoyed mostly was the closeness with Julie… (9)
This is a good scene because it fully follows the ARR schematic. We have an action in red, a reaction in green, and a reflection in blue, completing the arc of the scene. The only thing lacking within this book’s writing style is that not every scene is like this. Although most of the book follows this, which is nice since it alters its style between flashbacks, the present, books, articles, etc, some parts do have a textbook feel which are more of a download of information, desperate to strive for the science fiction genre than a genuine narrative. For that reason, I’m giving its style a 4.
This book is so convoluted in perspective that I didn’t know who was telling the story half the time. It would flip back and forth between Selena and Julie, and I don’t know if it was intentional, but it kicked me out of the story every time. Looking back, you can have a clue from the chapter numbering system restarting at 1, but otherwise, you would have to read through the chapter and pick up on clues, and when you’re so focused on whose story you’re reading, how can you pay attention to what you’re reading?
I will say that I did appreciate Julie’s perspective. The dual perspective allowed the novel to build upon the characters, the theme, and this added overall to the novel, as seen in the quote below.
For a while, I was frightened to go outside unless Cally was with me. I was afraid people would see me and realise, that they would point and yell in uearthly voices, like Donald Sutherland at the end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, unmasking me as an alien, running though the streets in droves as they hunted me down. (162)
I loved how Julie pretended that people were aliens, and also became one herself when she was transported to this other planet. And, it’s a good show of irony. But, unfortunately, this novel also loved to interrupt itself. It interrupted itself by switching perspectives disjointedly between Selena and Julie, and it also did so by littering the story with big blocks of text solely to build the science fiction world of Tristane and Dea. And, these were so dry. So boring. They were the ports that slowed me down and made me want to fall asleep. So because these interruptions led to a weak connection, I’m going to have to give a 2.5. It did have tons of details to build the character, but I loss the connection by its disjointed story-telling methods.
This story follows Selena coping how to move on from her sister Julie’s kidnapping, even though parts of the story starts earlier than that. But, even though this book contains loss, it’s not strictly about Selena’s grief over it; it’s about the fact that Selena and her family don’t know what happened to her sister, how they’re all scared of the unknown. And, I argue this because of the way the book ends, how it specifically concludes.
The more time passed, [Margery] Rouane maintains, the more the agony surrounding Julie’s disappearance evolved from a fear of what might have happened into the simple terror of not knowing. “It became a constant background noise, a wound that could never heal. (396)
Multiple motifs follow this fear of the unknown, and the book points to only one solution: belief and faith. But, we’ll examine each of these with short evidence for each.
In the beginning, when the two sisters are younger, the two of them are obsessed with aliens, constantly pointing out outsiders, using quirks as justifications for why these people are extraterrestrials. What’s ironic is that even as Julie does this, it isn’t until she’s removed to another planet that she herself begins to identify herself as an alien, using the justification that no one understands or believes her about Earth or Manchester.
When you’re a kid you live so much in your own world you barely think of adults as having lives, even. When I realised that Mum lived mostly behind a screen – a screen of efficiency and reasonableness designed to hide every trace of her real personality – it was like playing the alien game all over again.
Who was the alien, though? Her, or me? (166)
We see the alien motif again when Julie, in her past, learned something about her mother that didn’t coincide with previous memories of her, so Julie found herself in a place that she didn’t understand her. And of course, at any point in time when the girls don’t understand someone, we find ourselves back to the motif of aliens.
One of the stories that fascinates Julie from her time on Tristane, the other planet, is a story from an aeronautics technician named Linus Quinn. The story is this man went with his two friends, a naturalist and the naturalist’s wife, to a small planet named Dea, but when he returned from his journey, his two friends were dead. Of course, he claims this is due to a deadly parasitic isopod named creef, but there is no proof. That doesn’t stop the fear though.
[Noah] thinks something went wrong on Dea, something the praesidium doesn’t want anyone to know about. That’s why they stopped the transports, as a kind of quarantine. Then they shut down the radio station as well, so no one would find out. I’m not saying I think he’s right,” [Cally] said. “But I read some of those messages. They were awful, Julie. Those people knew they’d been abandoned. They were saying goodbye, mostly.” (181)
Here, we see the reaction of the fear of the unknown. Because the government doesn’t know who killed people on Quinn’s mission, all travel and transmissions to the planet were shutdown. What I think is even creepier is that through the last portions of the novel, we see Julie as she forgets more and more, a common symptom of being contaminated with creef, only, we never learn if she is or isn’t infected. Talk about the fear of the unknown and unresolved.
For much of the novel, we see articles, movies, stories that Selena has read about missing persons. Where her father has coped with Julie’s disappearance by tracking down any and all information related to Julie, Selena copes by finding all information about any disappearance ever, perhaps thinking if she can understand other people’s stories that maybe she can understand her own sister’s.
Selena wondered how she would feel if Julie were to disappear from her life again, as suddenly as she’d returned. She felt surprised at how painful it was, the idea. Something about the empty park, the rain, the sense that you could live your life and die and still know nothing about anything.
What if knowing only made things worse? Perhaps it was better to remain in the dark about what had happened. There was an argument for not purs
uing it, for ignoring the fork in the road, and moving on. (87)
We can see clearly where Selena had a choice. She could’ve left herself in the dark and not ask Julie about her disappearance, but obviously that didn’t happen because otherwise the book would be a whole lot shorter. Selena made the choice to ask because of the fear of this pain she mentioned, because she couldn’t stand not to know otherwise.
I love how this whole novel is space-themed, and how all the motifs circle around this. Even though black holes weren’t central to this novel, because they were so regularly mentioned, I believed they were integral to the theme.
I was about seven when it started, I think – I was terrified of black holes. I’d seen part of a science programme on TV – Horizon probably, or The World About Us – describing how nothing could ever escape a black hole, not even light. There was an animated diagram, showing what might happen if a planet were to get sucked into a black hole’s even horizon, and a map of our galaxy showing where astronomers believed black holes might be located. Gaping empty spaces, patches of nothing, the lairs of monsters. (133)
We can see that Julie’s fear started early, and over the course of the novel it develops, leading to Julie to compare multiple events to that of black holes: like the white van (from her ride with the serial killer), in which we don’t learn until the end what happened and the creef, in which we don’t know if they truly exist and kill. We see it from her teacher’s perspectives, who reinforces why black holes are so terrifying.
‘Julie was terrified of black holes. She told me they gave her nightmares. When I asked her why, she said that blackholes proved there were a lot of things we didn’t know about the universe, and that most of them were terrifying.’ (285)
So in the face of this fear, what does this novel suggest as a cure? Belief.
You know that moment in almost every horror movie you’ll ever see, when the main character comes dashing out of the woods, or the haunted house, or the cellar or wherever, gibbering some insane story about a monster or a psycho or a secret passage leading straight into hell? There are all kinds of variations on that scene, but the one thing that’s always the same is that the person who gets told the story never believes it. (137)
When Selena read all those different missing person stories, she didn’t know what to believe, and throughout the novel, when Julie returned, she was faced with the choice of whether or not this person who called herself Julie was telling the truth. But, it wasn’t until she accepted this was her sister, that her sister’s story was true that she began to feel better.
Her mother in return began to feel better when she believed that Julie had died, that the police had found her body within the woods by the lake. It is only when you have no belief that you suffer in the manner as Ray, when death finally overtakes you because he couldn’t face any belief on what happened to Julie.
So, I believe this novel does have a theme, but does that make it deserving of a 5? The answer is no. Everything about this theme seems to influence me, make me want to say I like it. Obviously, there was a lot of thought that has been put into it. There are multiple metaphors that strike a comparison for why a fear of the unknown is so scary, and I like the theme itself, especially since this is such a strong fear for myself—it explains why I’m scared of deep water and the dark—but my rating depends on the story’s compulsion. And, I’m sorry to say that was weak. This novel dragged, very much, and it lacked much conflict and tension that is contained in stronger books, so I’ll have to give its theme a much lower rating. I believe it deserves a 2 because the novel can be interesting and compelling, but this broken up by pieces of the novel that try so hard to build details and worlds, almost to force it to by a science fiction piece. It was trying too hard.
What originally drew me to this book? I would have to say the plot originally. I do see a lot of books that put characters on other planets, so I will have to say, there is probably more than one where a character disappeared to one, wisped through some unseen portal. I know this exists because this was one plotline within the TV series The Agents of Shield. So that motif is unoriginal. Whether someone is or isn’t an alien isn’t original either. Neither are parasites since this was done in Aliens. And whether or not someone is crazy isn’t new—look at Legion. Putting this all together with a missing person narrative? I would say that’s probably somewhat uncommon, which is why I believe it’s a 3. But again, this is highly limited by my knowledge of similar plot points and motifs.
Allan, Nina. The Rift. London, England: Titan Books, 2017. Print.
- Aliens (9, 16, 73, 95, 135, 162, 166, 180, 284)
- Parasitic Creefs (176, 181, 201, 220!)
- Missing persons (56, 59, 87, 129, 256, 279)
- Memories (13, 30, 72, 75, 79, 112, 119, 179, 227, 229)
- Crazy, insane, mentally ill (313, 318, 319, 320, 325, 328, 373)
- Belief (16, 18!–38, 56, 59, 64, 75, 87, 91, 123, 126, 132, 136, 220, 223, 266, 273, 316, 317, 410)
- Choices (53, 169, 253, 277)
- Black holes (134, 174, 224, 285)
- Lesbian (191, 216, 235, 302)
Julie Rouane Queer sister that goes missing
Selena Rouane Protagonist whose sister goes missing when she’s younger
Margery Rouane Mother of Julie and Selena, who divorces after Julie’s disappearance; medical practice manager
Ray Rouane Father of Julie and Selena, who turns obsessive after Julie’s disappearance
Stephen Dent Man who used to teach English in Japan and fell in love with Hiromi, but moved back to the US to care for Koi until they were killed, and he committed suicide; Selena feels guilty for never revealing his suicidal tendencies (324)
Cally saved Julie on Tristane
Noah Cally’s brother
Allison Gifford Part-time teacher at Priestley College, who noticed Julie as a lonely, shy, perhaps bullied student (281)
Lucy Khalil Indian, straight friend of Julie’s for two years, who wanted to grow up and be a doctor (301)
Steven Jimson serial killer and possible murderer of Julie
Johnny Selena’s boyfriend who invited her to move to Kuala Lumpur with him (321)
Lisa previous lover of Julie’s after she returns to Earth
Nadine Akoujan metallurgist in London who specializes in identifying space metal