Summary: Belonging to a pod made up of teen girls, Shona, Rustle, Solomon, Roku and Loo work together to carry out missions assigned to them by the ScanMans. But when two of their members start going through physiological changes and one of them goes missing, the ScanMans try to bring them all in for reprogramming. In their escape the pod is confronted with the wider world outside what they’ve been told, and the metamorphosis of Rustle and Roku changes them forever. Seeking answers and trying to survive, the separation of the pod causes each member to follow their own journey, questioning anew everything they’ve been trained to believe.
Number of Pages: 244
Age Range: 15-17
Review: One of the most intriguing pieces of speculative fiction I’ve read, Big Big Sky by Kristyn Dunnion creates a world where men and women are highly segregated. Teams or pods of young women are used to maintain order amongst themselves and root out the rogue communities of women that have escaped from pod life. Still, it is men who are in charge, pulling all of the strings it seems, trading women as slaves between their communities for favours.
In the midst of this sordid world, Dunnion presents her reader with one pod of girls. This pod demonstrates that perhaps those in charge don’t have everything figured out after all, as two of the girls are evolving characteristics of other species. The disappearance of Roku means they are all summoned to the lab for genetic testing, but as a group they manage to escape a certain death sentence.
Right from the start I was hooked by Dunnion’s creation. She effectively uses language to develop her characters, creating words and expressions to highlight the reality of the girls’ world. It isn’t the easiest read as a result, but it is well worth the effort.
While I loved getting to read from different perspectives of members in the pod, my favourite was Rustle. Despite becoming part girl, part fish, she strives to love and survive, sustained by memories of Loo when they are separated. When her changes allow her to get Loo pregnant, I was so happy for them because they genuinely cared about each other. Indeed, when Loo figures out her baby is Rustle’s, that knowledge is what really connects her to her child because she loves her baby’s mother.
I found it to be a bit of an emotional read because I just wanted things to work out for all of the girls and I wanted to cry when bad things happened to them. I loved their connection to each other, being able to send emotions, thoughts and texts to each other through their bodies. I wondered but wasn’t sure if they were able to do that because they were female, or because they had been wired that way, but liked that it created such a feeling of community for them.
After read Dunnion’s work I find myself pondering what it really means to be a girl, the power of friendship and love as well as the basic need to have a firm grasp on reality instead of being a mindless follower of propaganda. Each of the girls experiences a powerful journey that reveals truth, but often times the truth is more terrible than the lie.
Unless you’ve read Dunnion’s book, the memorable quotes section probably won’t make much sense except to give you a taste of what Dunnion has done through her writing. But if you’re a fan of speculative fiction and ready for an immersive reading experience, then Big Big Sky is the book for you.
“Shona and I look at each other in silence. I see the tired misery of a failed Leader. Someone who hungered for what little recognition ScanMans ever doled out. Just as I hungered medallions and pins, hunting trophies, and high scores on Mission. How Roku hungered truth stories, and Solomon harmony and healing. How Rustle hungered me. When I look at Shona, I see that we chose a poisoned meal, both of us, and that now we had to live out our last millis knowing our mistake.” – Loo from Big Big Sky by Kristyn Dunnion, pages 85-86
“Later, alone again, I think of Loo. I want to rememory my favourite fusion stories. I want to conjure her curled up and playing with my hair – though now it’s brittle and falling out from all the medipacs they inject in me. I try to smell her, try to rememory the essence that is Loo, but I can’t. The only smells I have are my own excrete, my own rejected soup, and the dank must of this underground lair. ScanMans have their own smells: chemclouds, antiseptic, burning flesh, and plastic gloves. All mixed with the taste of my own blood.
I roll over, stare at the other cell wall. I count the cracks that waver up and out until my vision blurs. I blank. At least I can still do that.” – Rustle from Big Big Sky by Kristyn Dunnion, page 174
“Dronebeets know their poison, though. They thrill with my every small advance, boast one against the next, and even place wee bets on how I might progress. Against my better judgement, I begin to breathe more deeply. I begin to sit and then to stand, begin to stretch and work on relearning these flailing parts of mine; that relentless survivalist program, subwired so deep that even ScanMans themselves cannot burn it from my mangled core.” – Rustle from Big Big Sky by Kristyn Dunnion, page 214