Monday, 4 February 2013

Guest Post & Review: When We Wake by Karen Healey


At the Other End:
The last thing Tegan remembers is the crack as the gun went off, intense pain, and everything fading to black. One hundred years later, she wakes up. A fast-paced near-future romance.

Sixteen-year-old Tegan is just like every other girl living in 2027 - she's happiest when playing the guitar, she's falling in love for the first time, and she's joining her friends to protest the wrongs of the world: environmental collapse, social discrimination, and political injustice.

But on what should have been the best day of Tegan's life, she dies - and wakes up a hundred years in the future, locked in a government facility with no idea what happened.

Tegan is the first person to be cryonically frozen and successfully revived, which makes her an instant celebrity - though all she wants is to rebuild some semblance of a normal life ...
including spending as much time as possible with musically gifted Abdi, even if he does seem to hate the sight of her. But the future isn't all she hoped it would be, and when appalling secrets come to light, Tegan must make a choice: Does she keep her head down and survive, or fight for a better future.


Karen HealeyAuthor Bio...
Karen Healey is a young adult novelist. She is the author of the urban fantasies GUARDIAN OF THE DEAD and THE SHATTERING, both set in New Zealand, and the forthcoming sci-fi adventure WHEN WE WAKE. GUARDIAN OF THE DEAD won the 2010 Aurealis Award for Best YA Novel and was a finalist for the William C. Morris Award. Karen can tell you a lot about baking, covers of "Hallelujah" and superhero comics.

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For my first science fiction YA novel, When We Wake, I deliberately engaged in non-scientific scientific thinking.
I wanted to write a Sleeping Beauty story where the protagonist falls asleep in her present, and wakes up a century into the future. I wanted her not to have aged, while the world around her had. And I wanted science, not magic, to be the method of preservation.
Cryonics is the low temperature preservation of somebody who is clinically dead – usually because of a traumatic injury or serious illness – in the hope that in the future they can be healed and revived.
Cryonics is a mostly hypothetical and theoretical field – there are practical aspects for the some 250 people who are currently preserved and those who are planning to be so, but these practices can’t actually be tested to conclusion. The only way to know if cryonics really works is to successfully revive someone, and we can’t do that with current medical technology. People who want to be cryonically preserved are banking that in the future, this will change.
The brain structures that hold long-term memory, personality, and personal identity don’t seem to need continuous brain activity to retain that information. Theoretically, if someone without damage to those parts of the brain could be protected from decomposition until medical technology could repair their physical trauma – both from the initial cause of death and the damage caused by the cryonic process itself - they could be brought back to life.
The cryonic process damage is no joke. If you’ve ever yanked old meat from the freezer and scowled at the freezer burn that’s spoiled your meal plan, you understand. Being able to cure multiple organ failure might not help if the freezing process has caused massive cellular damage to every part of the body.
That’s where cryoprotectants come in; substances designed to limit the damage caused by freezing.
If you’re writing a sci-fi Sleeping Beauty story, you get to assume that, for the purposes of your book, cryprotectants will work. In the future, revival can happen.
So I asked a technically unscientific question that I think actually lies behind a lot of scientific inquiry. I didn’t ask what is the most likely method of successful cryopreservation, but what would be the most awesome method.
Did I succeed?
Well, you tell me. In When We Wake, Tegan Oglietti is cryopreserved after a fatal shooting tears out most of her internal organs. This is how she recounts her understanding of her preservation:
On my twentieth day underground, I asked Marie how she’d brought me back to life.  
She put her shiny paper down and told me.  
It got really complicated, really fast. I’m not trying to protect the project or keep your grandma on ice or anything when I say that I can’t give you the full details of how a successful revival works. It’s just that between protein chains and gene therapy and cloned replacement organs, I completely lost track about ten minutes in.  
One thing I do remember, because it’s just so freaking weird, is that when I died, they pumped me full of something derived from tardigrades. Never heard of them? Neither had I. But they’re also known as water bears and moss piglets. They look like really tiny fat caterpillars with little feet. You can probably find them in your sink. In fact, you can find them everywhere, because these little guys are amazing survivors.  
They’re fine under meters of solid ice, or on top of the Himalayas, or in boiling water. Despite being, you know, water bears, they can survive drought and dehydration for up to ten years.  
They can even survive in outer space, which is about as hostile as it gets. If you were blown unprotected out of an air lock into the void, you’d survive for about two minutes, tops. You’d have mild injuries after ten seconds: solar-radiation burn, swelling skin and tissues. Then you’d get the bends as bubbles of inert gases started to form in your bloodstream. After about twenty to thirty seconds, you’d black out. Your saliva would boil off your tongue. You’d have nothing to breathe, but your lungs might try anyway, which is when you’d get lung damage from the vacuum. All this time, you’re burning or freezing; your body can do a pretty good job of regulating internal temperature, but it can’t hold out long against direct sunlight or its lack, when there’s no atmosphere to smooth things out.  
Two minutes unprotected in space and you’re absolutely dead.  
Tardigrades hung out in space for ten days. Then a bunch of them came back from their trip, thawed out, and had perfectly healthy little tardigrade babies.  
Marie explained how they do it, and it has something to do with a special kind of sugar and anhydro- something, and seriously, I wasn’t taking it in. But essentially, tardigrades can suspend their metabolisms. When they encounter something that’s just too much to deal with, they curl up, shut down, and wait for things to get better.  
And it turns out that’s the kind of thing you should reproduce in humans if you want to be able to freeze them before their brains die and thaw them out later at a point when you can repair their injuries.  
So I partially owe my second life to unbelievably hard-core bugs.

Tardigrades! Are they sufficiently awesome for you?

When We Wakeis published by Allen and Unwin in Australia and New Zealand, and is available right now in all good bookshops and online.

~ Karen Healey


Behind the 291 Pages:

This is truly an awesome novel. To all you Beatles fans out there, get ready for this book. Even if you're not a fan of them, there is something to love about When We Wake. If you are a fan of the Beatles, this book takes you deeper into it, with all the references to their songs as well as their meaning. If you don't, there isn't anything to worry about, everything still is understandable just without the deeper meaning that comes from the songs that fans would know. The world that we get thrown into is captivating and makes us question, as all dystopians/sci-fi do, about what the future really holds.

My first inital response to this novel was the sudden changes in the future and the past. While reading, we get a new little paragraph with Tegan talking about this future that she is in but from a past-tense, if that makes sense. There are these scattered throughout the book, most of the time, I questioned the relevance of this, because it just pulled away from the story, when we are trying to understand all that is happening, as well as these little bits don't seem important to add.

What this book really needed to boost it up that bit more into a 5, was more detail on the world. Both of them, we are brought straight away into her last day which is still our future, 2027. How do we know that this world is the same as the one we live in today? Where does it differ? This also continues on into the future of 2127, where we first see some of the differences, but not detailed, which is what we need to see to be able to capture this new world in our thoughts. Yes, we hear about the new issues with this new world (and the new-old world Tegan first came from), but the detail on the surroundings of the land could be more in depth.

I love the characters in this book (Bethari is my favourite minor character), and I don't have a problem at all with the same-sex acceptancy of this new Australia/World, but from when we first heard of it being nationally accepted, it was then thrown into our face most of the chance that happened until half-way or so into the book. It was just a bit much, to make it seem like, just because the issue in the novel was accepted, doesn't mean that from then on, every second character had to be attracted to the same sex.

One predictability was Tegan and Abdi's relationship, although, it seemed at the start that she was only fascinated by his resemblance to her past love. Makes me wonder if this is really her main point of love/lust in Abdi. I didn't like the way that Tegan and Dalmar had really only been dating for one day, yet they both claimed they loved each other. You all know my resentment to this kind of thinking, that the actual "asking out" by the boy does not indicate for the girl to automatically "love him" as what seems to be a kind of thanks for the asking out. This is what it feels like at the start when Tegan always talks about Dalmar, especially to Bethari.

I love the idea that Karen has used for the Cryonics and the Tardigrades (explained in detail by Karen in the guest post above), it is something that has such a possibility of coming into our world and into our future that this book makes everything a little more life-like. There were some parts (mainly the end) that you don't expect until they jump right at you. The action at the end of the novel also adds to your shock and surprise at what is really happening behind closed doors.

Wow, that ending was explosive. A great finish to this book, leaving you wondering if there is going to be a second, or if this is a stand-alone. This, however, doesn't stop us from asking all the questions about what happens now to all the other characters and to what ultimately happened to the government's plan. This book mixes what we wish for in the future, and what may actually become the future into a gripping finale and leaves us thinking for hours on end after finished.

Buy Me!

buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery

Now time for a pressie :) here is the link to the bookmark I made for When We Wake! This bookmark isn't even on the tab yet with the others so this post is (for now) the only place you'll get this one!

When We Wake by Karen Healey <-- Aus cover

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