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Out of time – ‘The Song of the Orphans’

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Second installment of sci-fi series a strong sequel

Science fiction lends itself particularly well to the creation of a book series. Building a world over the span of multiple books allows for the environmental thoroughness in which so much sci-fi thrives.

Author Daniel Price laid the foundation for quite a world indeed in 2014’s “The Flight of the Silvers,” creating an alternate America where time itself served as a natural resource – and where a handful of refugees from the utter destruction of their (and our) Earth discover their own unique connections to the powers of this new place.

The second book in the Silvers series is “The Song of the Orphans” (Blue Rider Press, $30). The adventure continues for the survivors as they struggle to find their place in this new world, dealing with friends who are enemies and adversaries that become allies. All the while desperately searching for a way to help their new home avoid the fate of the old one.

Six months have passed since the Silvers arrived in AltAmerica. Hannah, Amanda, Zack, Theo, Mia and David are quickly gaining new mastery of their temporal abilities. And they need every bit of it; they’re surrounded by potential foes – the shadowy government agency tasked with their destruction, the native-born chronokinetics (known as Gothams) whose underground existence is threatened with exposure, the sinister time-benders of the Pelletier family whose motives are as mysterious as their actions are deadly – all with their own vendettas.

But Theo – the augur of the bunch – might be the only person who can steer the world toward the singular possible future that doesn’t end in utter annihilation in just a few short years. There are those who seek to help the Silvers – exiled Gotham Peter, government agent Melissa – but for the most part, the world (and the vast majority of the most powerful people in it) are against them.

Even when they learn that they aren’t the only survivors of their world – they hook up with a musician named Jonathan and a high-functioning autistic teen named Heath who have been making it on their own since their escape. They join in the effort to bring the rest of their Earth’s people together.

However, being pulled in all directions at once is unsustainable. Something’s got to give, and when it does, the fate of the world itself is at stake.

“The Song of the Orphans” is very much a second book – and I mean that in the most complimentary way. The meticulous detail of Price’s fictional Earth is such that context is fairly important; while there’s enough narrative oomph and contextual exposition to make reading this one without reading “TFotS” doable, there’s obvious benefit to experiencing “Orphans” as a second chapter rather than a beginning.

That isn’t to give short shrift to Price’s character work – he’s juggling a good-sized cast and finding effective ways to lend depth to all of them. The evolution of that cast and the development of secondary and tertiary relationship dimensions has created a vivid sense of character and a bright view of how and why these people have entangled.

And lest we forget, there’s a lovely cleverness here. Price wears his pop culture sensibilities and sense of humor on his sleeve - and he’s unafraid to lean into either. The music of the Beatles plays a key role in the story, for instance. And he engages in occasional wordplay that makes me chuckle while simultaneously wondering if I should groan. An example: at one point, an oddly-shaped path between buildings is referred to as a “Salvadored alley” and I laughed for two solid minutes.

“The Song of the Orphans” is a sharp, smart piece of science-fiction. Price has not only recaptured the grand scale of Book One, but expanded upon it. It’s a narrative that unspools cinematically in the mind’s eye; there’s a visual acuity at work here that is wonderful and rare.

Here’s hoping that the wait for Book Three will be a short one. After all, the world is running out of time.

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