Sputnik's Children

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 30 Jun 2017

Member Reviews

I wasn't really expecting great things from this story.  I mean, a novel about comic books?
Debbie Reynolds Biondi is a has-been graphic artist and comic book creator, the creator of Sputnik Chick.  She needs an origin story for Sputnik Chick, so like the whole series, she bases the story on her own life.
What follows is a crazy narrative of two parallel timelines: Atomic Mean Time and Earth Standard Time.  Bleak landscapes, corporate abuse, and impending nuclear destruction are all saved by Debbie!  
The story is crazy and far-fetched, with recognizable historical characters and situations just slightly askew.
Highly recommended for fans of the offbeat and creative.
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WARNING -- THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS

This was ... well ... unusual.

Debbie Reynolds Biondi is a comic book creator and writer who achieved fame for her superhero series "Sputnik Chick Girl with No Past."  It's been 20+ years and much of Biondi's life is now attending conventions, signing autographs, and listening to fan after fan asking her to please tell them Sputnik Chick's backstory, while she simply wants to find some attractive guy and get laid without having to talk about comics.

But the comic world is struggling and Biondi has trouble coming up with new adventures for Sputnik Girl and finally relents to sharing her origins, which - not surprisingly - mirror Biondi's own strange origins. Sputnik/Biondi comes from an alternate universe. But in a slightly unusual twist, Biondi herself may be more of a superhero than her crime-fighting creation, having saved the entire human race but then relegated to anonymity and losing everything she's loved the most.

The book is very interesting and author Terri Favro's understated style carries a melancholy tone that is so appropriate to Biondi's plight (though we don't know that until much later in the book).  But at times this melancholy appears to occur at the expense of story.

Although this is quite readable and will pull the reader in, what we have - aside from a story within a story - is a book that is 90% backstory.  After being introduced to Biondi, we get to learn all about her (her backstory) - first through her creation, and then her own story.  It's a fascinating way to read/tell a story.

The last ten percent of the book is the culmination of Biondi's story, but it stands out as being different enough - in story and in tone - from the rest of the book that it feels as though this was an action tale with too much back story to get to the climax.  It was exciting, but it really was so different - much more of a fantasy than we'd had to that point.  Though Favro tried to give us some hints (with one character in particular) we just didn't see the magic room and space/time hopping coming.

The fact that some of this feels like a story within a story within a story because Terri Favro is also a comic book writer, added just enough hint of autobiography to keep the reader guessing as to where the story would go.

There was a lot to like about this book, and I really want to read this again, now that I know where it is going, to hopefully better pick up on some of the (hopefully) clues in the book.  I was caught up in the story and looked forward to seeing where it would go, but at the same time, once it was over I was left feeling unsatisfied.

Looking for a good book? Sputnik's Children is a fantasy novel by Terri Favro and takes a unique path to tell a complicated story, but it's left just a little too unresolved for full satisfaction.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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I rated this book 3.5/5 stars. This was such an innovative and wild ride of a book. I loved the science fiction and the character-drive plot.
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I really liked SPUTNIK'S CHILDREN and posted reviews on my blog, Chapters Indigo, Goodreads, and Amazon. Thanks so much for the review copy!
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Terri Favro’s ‘Sputnik’s Children’ introduces Debbie Reynolds Biondi, creator of the cult classic superhero series ‘Sputnik Chick: Girl with No Past.’
Debbie has coasted along writing the series, detailing the adventures of a hardass heroine who thinks nothing of facing down mutants to save the planet. However, readership is down and her remaining fans demand a prequel. Reluctantly, Debbie is faced with writing her own story.  She is, indeed, Sputnik Chick herself. Sputnik Chick’s adventures have been her own.
The book’s premise is creative, and Debbie is an interesting character.  However, there are technical problems.  Divided into three sections, the first and third sections detail Debbie’s current life.  Section two recounts Debbie’s past in Shipman’s Corners, a 1950-ish Rust Belt town of no distinction.  This is Debbie’s past - in the alternate reality world of Atomic Mean Time.  It’s a world that shadows and magnifies problems of the Eastern Standard Time world.  The shifts in time and place can be abrupt and painful.  
What starts out as a fast paced witty book, slows down in section two.  And the reader is left wondering if the author ran out of quips or just decided to present a different side of her protagonist.
The premise is creative, but the execution too rough.
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The Short Of It:
A unique, quirky story involving a comic book writer, parallel universes and growing up in the time of the atomic bomb.

The Long Of It:
Debbie Reynolds Biondi grew up in a version of Earth very similar to ours, with one key difference. In Atomic Mean Time, WWII never really ended and the world is trapped in a nuclear arms race, with mutually assured destruction a daily threat.

Now Debbie resides in Earth Standard Time, our version of the world, and she makes a living as the author of the popular "Sputnik Chick: Girl With No Past" comics, which feature an ass-kicking heroine. The thing is, Sputnik Chick is based on Debbie's own experiences -- and the time has come to finally tell her origin story.

Though her flashbacks, we learn how Debbie was tasked with saving the world from nuclear free-for-all and imminent catastrophe, all while navigating life as a teenager in the 70s. She's from a small industrial town called Shipman's Corners in Canusa (the area around Niagara Falls, sort of its own nation in Atomic Mean Time) where the military-industrial complex is in full swing. Bomb manufacturer ShipCo has its hands in ever facet of the town, right down to the special calming grapes used to make ShipCo wine (helpful in keeping everyone's minds off the horrors of nuclear war).

"Sputnik's Children" is in large part a coming-of-age story; Debbie matures from a child into a woman over the course of the book, but I'm pleased that it didn't come across at all YA-ish. I especially enjoyed her teen romance with John Kendal (and her reaction to the flak they got over their interracial relationship in a time when it was taboo). And Favro paints an fascinating picture of what it'd be like to grow up when the world could literally end any day at the push of a few buttons.

Favro also creates a wonderful sense of time and place in her novel. She makes it so easy to picture Shipman's Corners, and there are plenty of fun '70s references. I also loved all the little details that set Atomic Mean Time apart from the world as we know it.

I've read a few other books dealing with parallel universes lately ("Dark Matter," "Maybe in Another Life," "All Our Wrong Todays") and, like those, this one feels wholly original -- and it's also got plenty of fun and quirk mixed in with the serious bits (you know, saving humanity from itself). That said, I did have a couple gripes. It was a bit draggy at times, and I desperately wanted to know more about adult present-day Debbie and more science-y details about how exactly she went about saving the world. Still, this genre-bender is definitely worth a read!
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This can be a frustrating and confusing read because of the time bending aspects but it's ultimately rewarding.  Favro is working in a unique way- her novel doesn't fit any genre.  It's well written and obviously complexly plotted.  I wasn't initially sure that I liked this but on balance, it's one of the more creative and interesting novels I've read in a while and that's a plus.  THanks to Netgalley for the ARC.
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Where do I start? A novel idea wrapped in a superhero mantle. Great.
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