4 out of 4 stars
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In A Book Without Dragons by Olivia Berrier, it’s the year 2054. Thanks to a satellite system known as Unitime, cars run on Refined Solar Energy instead of petroleum, and all of technology works in synchronized harmony. Then one day, people all over the world wake up to find that their clocks are slightly off. As the discrepancies grow larger and larger, technology everywhere stops working. Banks shut down. Hospitals overflow. And pretty soon, full-blown panic starts to ripple across the globe.
In the midst of this crisis, readers meet four people (and one dog!) living in a small town known as Chagrin Heights. There’s Chief Snowiks. He's the head of the police department and on the cusp of retirement, and he’s not sure that he has what it takes to respond to this crisis. There’s Elizabeth—or Zabby, as she’s called—who daylights as a waitress and spends her evenings avoiding her alcoholic father’s outbursts. She recently failed out of nursing school, and it’s left her battling feelings of inadequacy. There’s Bethany Gardner, who stews over a lackluster marriage and disappointing career. There’s Cider, the lovable dog who somehow finds his way into every home in Chagrin Heights.
And finally, there’s Willow Ayers. Willow likes to think of himself as an ordinary guy who loves fantasy novels. But he’s also the guy who invented Unitime. And when the system breaks down, people everywhere turn their eyes to him. He’s the only one who can fix Unitime and restore order to their world. But Willow’s in hiding, and he doesn’t seem to be making a whole lot of progress. In fact, some people would say he doesn’t really want Unitime to be fixed at all. Or does he?
The plot of A Book Without Dragons kept me on the edge of my seat, and the story addresses many timely questions. What would our world look like without technology? If you take away our gadgets, who do we become? Do we still have the ability to work together as humans? Each character was likable and well-developed. Later in the novel, Zabby begins to feel threatened by well-meaning friends who try to rescue her from her abusive household. I could relate to Zabby’s inner conflict as she wrestles with conflicting feelings of guilt, anger, and love toward her abusive father.
I also loved Berrier’s writing style. I felt like I was sharing an inside joke with the author during little tongue-in-cheek moments like this one: "Willow’s fate was not in the hands of some benevolent author gradually steering the story toward a happy ending" (Berrier 52).
The only thing that may turn some readers off is the way that A Book Without Dragons plays with tenses. Each character’s story is told in a different tense—for example, Zabby narrates her story in first person present tense, while Willow's story is written in third person past tense. Though I wasn't sure what I would think about it, I actually enjoyed this variety while reading. The switch in tenses kept each character distinct in my mind and added a kind of urgency to each character’s story. About halfway through the novel, some of the characters switch tenses. The author’s reasons for doing this become clear at the end of the book. Though I can't go into much detail without getting into spoilers, I didn’t feel that the switch in tenses added much to the book. However, it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the plot, and other readers may appreciate it.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. Short, suspenseful chapters and a riveting plot kept me turning the pages. Complex characters kept me hooked on the story. Witty banter kept me laughing out loud. Because of these factors, I’m rating A Book Without Dragons 4 out of 4 stars. If you enjoy sci-fi and fantasy, you'll love this book. And I believe A Book Without Dragons will satisfy anyone who enjoys a weird and well-told story!
A Book Without Dragons
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