Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fantasy
About The Book
Humanity is rebuilding its cities brick by brick; the damage done to the people, however, is a lot harder to repair. Dan Hardacre is one of those people. An aspiring stage actor and experienced draft-dodger, Dan struggles to find his place within the Utopic rebuild of New York City. When he’s not caught up with the duties of work, Dan lives a quiet life in mourning for his mother, Dyani, who went missing when he was a teenager.
One night, Dan experiences a vivid, terrifying nightmare that puts him right on the front lines of the war for which he dodged the draft; it ends with him facing Death itself in the form of a metallic, faceless humanoid creature that calls itself the Valkyrie. To investigate the reason behind his haunting experience, Dan seeks out a meeting with his estranged father, who reveals the startling truth about Dan’s dream: it wasn’t a dream.
With this newfound knowledge and the powers it brings, Dan makes it his mission to return to the scene of his nightmare. However, he soon comes to know that confronting the Valkyrie not only endangers him but the war-withstanding world he leaves behind.
Liam Quane’s Road to Juneau tries to tell four stories: one of a thoughtful young man and his search for meaning in his life, two his connection and perspective on a recent armed conflict, the dissolution of his parent’s marriage, and his development of god-like powers. The first three story elements were quite interesting, and unfortunately the addition of a superhero element crucially undermines the emotional power of the story.
Daniel is an intelligent and thoughtful young man in his twenties. His parents divorced when he was still an adolescent, and his emotionally needy father appears to have lost his confidence and sense of self. He has two room-mates, one of whom is a reporter. Daniel works at an IT company, where he is friends with Ana, a shy young woman who may secretly be in love with him. Martin, his boss, is a man of erratic moods who still suffers from the loss of his son, Nathan, who died in the recent armed conflict that Daniel somehow avoided fighting in.
The most interesting parts of Road to Juneau are primarily its relationships and secondarily the hints that not all is as it seems, and that something subtle may be going on. When Daniel has a vivid dream of being in the war alongside Nathan and his squad. In the dream, as in real life, they all die, which bothers Daniel. He wants to “fix” the past. Another case is when Daniel stuffs all the office cubicle walls in a storeroom. They fall on him, but disappear when he turns his back on them. The riddle of Daniel’s strange dreams and his potential relationship with Ana are intriguing and will engage most readers. I really wanted to know how it would all fit together.
But then the story takes a left turn: Daniel’s father is actually a god-like being, and Daniel has superpowers himself. The dreams and disappearing cubicle walls have been Daniels’ powers manifesting themselves. The story leaves all the interesting relationships, such as those with Ana, Daniels’ boss and the soldiers, behind as it follows his training to be a god with his dad. It fell a bit flat there, for me, one of the more uninteresting ways to go with such a rich story setup. Although Liam Quane does eventually return to these relationships, they never get properly developed and don’t pay off like I hoped they would.
Takeaway: Road to Juneau is a science fiction novel that will appeal to fans of superhero fiction, who might like to imagine that they suddenly manifest godlike powers, and that their seemingly weak parents may have been hiding something all along. I just wish the relationships had been better developed.
Lee has a background in physics and applied science, but has always enjoyed reading fiction. His first serious forays in writing came from dungeon mastering and high school drama club, although for nearly three decades as a geophysicist, he wrote only non-fiction. At the age of 25, Lee spent a prolonged period of time on the edge of death, had the last rights read to him, and enjoyed several near death experiences. Not even all the morphine could make him forget those. Lee enjoys rock climbing, cycling, hiking, swimming and writing. He is an Ironman Triathlete.