"He is a beautiful, perhaps unrepeatable, fluke, like the rumors of cold fusion. And, if they cannot catch him, it will be equally impossible to prove that he was ever real."
Every so often in the media industry.. you come across a creator so special that you know they could be the 'next big thing.' I've always had a keen eye for this. I knew it with musicians like Alice in Chains and Stone and Jeff from Pearl Jam (then Mother Love Bone) before they got label deals. I knew it with Linkin Park the moment I heard the advance copy of Hybrid Theory. I've always been an early adopter on promoting those artists that trigger that feeling in me because I know the difference between someone with that skill remaining lesser known and actually blowing up across their industry.. is largely luck.
In the last several months, I've been lucky myself. Lucky enough to cross paths with a handful of authors that fall into that category.. knowing that if the right sets of eyes see their work.. even the sky isn't something that could contain them.
Wren Handman is one of them. I had a feeling about her when I read a novel she released called 'In Restless Dreams.' There is a subtlety to her writing that beautifully distracts with one hand while leading with the other and in that.. 'Wire Wings', which is slated to release on June 23rd, 2020.. is no exception.. but it is extraordinary in every other way.
Graciela is a 'good girl.' She seems to feel small.. veritably crushed by her intellectual.. but emotionally distant parents and the loss of her best friend. She's an expectedly brilliant girl who adheres to the rules and gets good grades. But in the VR world called the Waves.. she can be who she wants to be.. the person she believes she is.. deep down. Free, strong-willed, decisive.
"Gracie recognizes the sound of something delicate breaking. She knows no one else has seen it, wishes she could stop the fallout but knows the bomb has already gone off; it's just traveling through space, taking time to reach them. By the time you see the light of a star, it has died a thousand years before."
In the real world, Gracie's struggling. Her panic attacks are getting worse all the time and Khaiam, her best friend's former boyfriend.. is nearly the only thing she has left of Calista.
Then she meets Thomas. A stranger in the Waves with eyes that pull her in like a moth to a flame. He's charismatic and seems dangerous at times, fueling her desire to spend more time in VR than her real life. He seems to be able to defy all laws of code within the Waves and though he repeatedly finds her when she Dives.. he keeps his own secrets close. She doesn't know who he really is or how he came to be, much less why he continues to seek her out time after time.
"Revelry. Alcohol. Fire. Nothing can go wrong."
I can't possibly express how much I love this story.. how moving and exhilirating it is.. all at once.
The characters are richly developed with complex relationships, problems that are realistic even in their fantastical presentation. Handman is amazing at showing the vulnerable layers beneath the veneers. I've seen her do so in both the aforementioned books.
Like us, they often have carefully constructed appearances. Protective shells that help them survive pain and loneliness, grief and loss, fear and insecurities. While managing to let us peek beneath these veneers, she still allows the characters the illusion of keeping them in place for a time and when they ultimately crumble, the result tugs at your heart.
"Don't you sometimes feel your body is a prison around your soul?"
The story is full of hope though.. hope and worry. A yearning for something more.. some.. better connection to those around us that I think speaks to us on a level deeper than our conscious might always allow. You want so desperately for everything to turn out right for Graciela and her friends.. their journey.. fraught with risks.. some you can see instantly.. and others which remain hidden from you. While I saw one big reveal coming within the first few chapters, there were still unexpected turns.. especially toward the conclusion.. and what an ending it is!
Eventually, through one of the characters, the author herself draws parallel between this story and a well known myth. A favorite of mine, though I won't ruin anything for you by telling you what it is. I will say, it surprised me.. though in hindsight it shouldn't have. The story is just so elegantly crafted, so immersive.. that I never even considered the implications.
In truth, I don't know if she really means 'Wire Wings' to be a retelling or if it's just a similarity she wanted to point out to the reader. I hesitate to call it that, since it almost feels as if naming it anything else might diminish it in some way. But if it is indeed a retelling of the famous story.. it is quite possibly the most stunningly original retelling I have ever read.
If you read only one indie title releasing this month, let it be this one.