Wednesday, February 14, 2024

The Other Valley

The Other Valley by Scott Alexander Howard
2/27/24; 304 pages
Atria Books

The Other Valley by Scott Alexander Howard is a literary speculative fiction novel which puts a new spin on time travel. It is highly recommended.

Sixteen-year-old Odile Ozanne knows her current reality is life in the town in the valley where she lives. She also knows that beyond the mountains to the west is the same town 20 years in the past, while to the east is the same town 20 years in the future and as far as she knows this pattern repeats ad infinitum. The border between the towns are well-fenced, carefully patrolled, and heavily guarded.  In each town, the governing body called the Conseil are the only ones who can approve a visit to the past or the future.

When Odile recognizes two visitors from the future that she wasn't to see, she realizes the implications for her friend Edme. After Odile is accepted to compete for a apprentice position for a coveted seat on the Conseil, she is also talked to about her observations of the visitors and it is made clear that she must preserve the timeline and not intervene. 

The Other Valley is a literary novel in a unique setting. It is a beautifully written examination of the substance of fate versus free will, grief and love, within a coming-of-age story that turns into a larger exploration of ethics and power. It does feel slow moving, however, and the lack of quotation marks is likely is the culprit for the lack of smooth reading progression as readers have to sort out the conversations for themselves.

The novel is divided into two sections, Odile at sixteen and at thirty-six, and Odile is the narrator. She is a sympathetic character who is always introspective. The tone of the first part of the story is more promising while the second part is rather morose. This could be an excellent choice for thoughtful book clubs.

Science fiction aficionados may find some time travel continuity problems in The Other Valley. Concentrating on Odile's story and simply going along with the plot will allow you to overcome any questions. The final denouement is very satisfying. Thanks to Aria Books for providing me with an advance reader's copy via Edelweiss. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.

No comments: