Alexandra Duncan

Science Fiction. Fantasy. Feminism.

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Blight
By Alexandra Duncan

Seventeen-year-old Tempest Torres has lived on the AgraStar farm north of Atlanta since she was found outside the gates at the age of five. Now she’s part of the security force guarding the fence and watching for scavengers—people who would rather steal genetically engineered food from the company than work for it. When a group of such rebels accidentally sets off an explosion in the research compound, it releases into the air a blight that kills every living thing in its path—including humans. With blight-resistant seeds in her pocket, Tempest teams up with a scavenger boy named Alder and runs for help. But when they finally arrive at AgraStar headquarters, they discover that there’s an even bigger plot behind the blight—and it’s up to them to stop it from happening again. A fast-paced action-adventure story that is Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake meets Nancy Farmer’s House of the Scorpion.


SOUND is the stand-alone companion to Alexandra Duncan’s award-winning novel Salvage, a debut that internationally bestselling author Stephanie Perkins called “kick-ass, brilliant, feminist science fiction.” For fans of Beth Revis, Firefly, and Battlestar Galactica.

Miyole has made mistakes.

The first was lying about her age to secure a spot on a Deep Sound Research Institute mission to the edges of known space.

The second was failing to stop the dakait who attacked her ship and destroyed a smaller vessel before her eyes.

The third was falling in love with Cassia.

In the wake of the attack, Miyole finds herself drawn into a reckless quest to rescue Cassia’s brother from the dakait. Along with a meddling pilot caught up in their plans, the girls fight their way through criminal dens, abandoned space stations, and the harsh oceans of an ice-bound moon, Miyole’s carefully constructed world begins to crumble. Can she trust Cassia? Is the DSRI everything they say? Can Miyole keep the memories of a past she has struggled so hard to forget from resurfacing?

And most of all, can she bear the cost?

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KIRKUS STARRED REVIEW

On a research mission to deep space, a girl makes bold and terrifying choices.

Miyole forged her papers to work on the Ranganathan, a 128,000-acre research-and-development ship. She’s 16, not the required 18, but she’s always wanted to travel into space and was impatient to leave Mumbai, where she was taunted as “the darkest” and “the exotic outlier” because she’s Haitian, not Indian. Onboard, she bioengineers bees and butterflies to pollinate terraformed planets. Then life takes a sharp turn: pirates attack a nearby spacecraft, and Miyole meets a girl named Cassia. Making the stunning decision to steal a shuttle so she and Cassia can pursue the pirates who kidnapped Cassia’s brother, Miyole pilots them into deep space. As they bargain with unsavory dealers, visit a frozen moon’s underwater settlements, and discover horrifying things, Miyole battles post-traumatic stress from an early-life catastrophe, including flashbacks that will be especially meaningful to readers who saw that tragedy unfold in Salvage (2014). Connections among her personal history, her ancestral history (the real-life Haitian Revolution; the science-fictional destruction, centuries ago, of Haiti by floods), and the atrocities she discovers in deep space are meaningful and well-wrought, as is the portrayal of Miyole’s tender and bumpy romance with Cassia.

Unpredictable plot, vivid settings, and a queer, dark-skinned black girl as a protagonist in far-future science fiction: essential. (Science fiction. 14-17)


“Salvage is the book I’ve been waiting for—kick-ass, brilliant, feminist science fiction. Watch out, world. Alexandra Duncan has arrived.”

—Stephanie Perkins, internationally bestselling author of Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door


“Alexandra Duncan’s debut illustrates a richly detailed world that vividly shows a possible future of Earth where society has both regressed and progressed, where the struggles of humanity have become more dire, but where love still remains. Everything—from the world to the characters—felt viscerally real. Original and memorable.”

—Beth Revis, author of the nationally best-selling Across the Universe


“Epic in scope and intimate in execution, Salvage is an astonishing debut. Duncan expertly crafts a story of the journey to claim oneself across the infinite expanses of both space and the human heart.”

—Kiersten White, author of the New York Times best-selling Paranormalcy trilogy


“Alexandra Duncan is a stunning new voice. Duncan’s magnificently flawed future world exposes humanity . . . in ways that are ripe for discussion. . . . Ava’s personal journey from oppression to self-actualization—by turns harrowing and heartbreaking, but ultimately triumphant—will keep readers glued to the pages. Highly recommended.”

—Rae Carson, author of the best-selling Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy


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Salvage

KIRKUS REVIEW

Haunting, colorful environments distinguish this debut novel about a girl fighting for survival in the far future.

Ava lives on the Parastrata. She knows nothing beyond her polygamous, fundamentalist religion, whose followers began living in spaceships some 1,000 years ago and which holds women as property they harbor an interest in Earth “like a soft, rotten spot in [their] souls.” Informed that she’s marrying a man on another ship, Ava’s thrilled to see Luck, a boy she met years ago, in the greeting party. They know they should wait until after their wedding, but they sneak into a desalination pool and succumb to sex the night before—and get caught. To their shock (though not readers’), Ava was actually promised to Luck’s father. The Parastrata women wash Ava and lock her in a chilled room to await her punishment: Being pushed out into open space, which is, of course, fatal. A difficult, terrifying escape and a relative’s sacrifice provide another chance, but where can she go? From the strained peculiarity of the Parastrata to a sunbaked community afloat on the Pacific Ocean to the bustle of Mumbai, Duncan’s settings and diction are vivid. As brown-skinned people become Ava’s chosen family, she learns that her own medium-dark skin—mocked aboard the Parastrata—isn’t a religious stain, marking this a welcome browning of the science-fiction universe. Ava’s decisions sometimes serve plot more than characterization, but readers caught up in the story will forgive this.

Memorable. (Science fiction. 14-17)

 

VOYA REVIEW

4Q 5P

Across the Universe meets A Handmaid's Tale in this impressive debut, a riveting look at the outsider in society; coming of age under extremely repressive circumstances; the struggle to survive; the good and the bad as far as family goes; and true love, sort of. Ava, the captain's daughter on the Parastrata, is ready to be married at age sixteen. She cannot read or write, but she taught herself how to do figures, is an excellent manager under her stepmother, and has learned how to do minor fixes around the ship. When her betrothal ceremony goes hideously awry, she is saved from being ejected into space by her grandfather's youngest widow, who sends her off to Earth with a female ship captain. Ava has never experienced Earth's gravity, so it is touch and go, but the ship captain pulls her through. She returns the favor by saving the captain's eight-year-old sister from a massive storm which kills the captain. Her only hope in the aftermath is to fly to Mumbai and find her mother's sister. There she meets a young man who helps her cope with life in the slums of Earth while providing a safe haven for the girls and their ship. This dystopian work by a welcome new voice in science fiction for teens is by turns compelling, riveting, suspenseful, and satisfying as this downtrodden young woman learns to stand up for herself and make her own choices.—

- Bonnie Kunzel

PW REVIEW

Duncan makes an excellent debut with a novel that's part feminist polemic and part coming-of-age adventure. In a space-faring future, supply ship "crewes" have developed into patriarchal tribes, with strict gender roles and a mythology to justify them: "Women of the air, stay aloft," the girls of the vessel Parastrata are warned. Ava is considered to be deviant for several reasons: she is of suspect Earthly descent, and she has a knack for both math and mechanical engineering, disciplines that are forbidden to women on her ship. After further transgressing Parastrata's laws through a romantic encounter, she is cast out into the Void. With a fierce desire to survive and with the help of a female spaceship captain named Perpétue, Ava escapes space for the deadly gravity of Earth, where she eventually discovers emotional, sexual, and intellectual liberation. Duncan's thoroughly realized setting and subtle control of Ava's voice result in a powerfully immersive story that uses its far-future SF premise to thoughtfully explore gender politics. Ages 13–up. Agent: Kate Testerman, KT Literary. (Apr.)

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