Book Review – Terrene: the hidden valley

terreneTerrene: the hidden valley by Eric Liu is an interesting merging of science fiction and fantasy.  It’s a book about technology and climate change as a central theme, but takes place in two different worlds, the near future and a hidden valley.  There are two parallel stories that are linked through a girl named Flora.

Flora is living in a valley where technology is naturally grown from plants, as they seem to have an incredible knowledge of plants.  Everything is made of plants, even the lights.  And they’re alive.  Flora is trying to find out what happened to her father, and the Institute is the only way.  She means to get there somehow, and find out what happened to her father.  However, she has dreams about Jane Ingram, who is a scientist in the United States in the early 21st century who is trying to solve the problem of global climate change.  But how are these two ladies linked?

In the world of Terrene, Flora is a typical underachiever who becomes the heroine.  Her friends and classmates are a mix of stereotypical teenage story characters, the nerd, the bully, the confident popular guy, and so on.  Flora is the misfit, the bullied.  She has a problem with blacking out whenever she gets worked up.  On Earth, Jane is a brilliant scientist with her equally intelligent son and her unemotional research assistant.  It seems like a typical coming-of-age story with your typical characters, but those initial character types do develop into something more.  I was glad of that.  However, I found many of the characters to still be quite simple.

The world of Terrene is wonderfully described.  That’s one of the strong points of this book.  I could imagine everything very clearly, and what I saw in my mind was a remarkable world.  The valley and the Institute were very interesting. The future Earth side of the story was done reasonably well, but is overshadowed by Terrene, I feel.

I found that the flow of the story, switching back and forth between the worlds, was done well, though I caught myself hoping to get back to Terrene.  I was far more interested in Flora’s story and world than I was of Jane’s.  It’s not that I didn’t like the future Earth, I just found it a bit more tedious to get through when the comparatively vivid Terrene was waiting just a few pages later.  I guess I just wanted to spend more time in Terrene and explore that world more.  One thing I was worried about was that a lot of the conflict in this book didn’t happen until the latter half.  It was a slow first half.  Not that this is bad, the first half was more like an exploration of the world, but it still lacked the excitement I would’ve wanted.  My interest level started high, then for most of the first half of the book, I was wondering when anything exciting would happen.  But by the end, I was pretty satisfied with the tension and action.  The ending was a big surprise.  I didn’t see that coming at all, though looking back at what happened, I could understand many of the unusual incidents.  However, the ending made me feel a bit disappointed.  It’s a personal taste when it comes to fantasy worlds, but it may be perfectly fine for others.

Overall, I’d give this a 3.5 out of 5 stars.  For those interested in science fiction and fantasy, as well as real issues, such as climate change, then this book is for you.  I enjoyed it.

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