YA Review: Quarton: The Bridge (Quarton #1)

Title: Quarton: The Bridge (Quarton #1)
Author: Ian Hornett

A clever sci-fi novel with an intriguing premise, the first book in the Quarton series sets the scene for an enduring interplanetary and intergenerational conflict.

On a dying planet, a group of scientists races to build a bridge across space. The plan is to escape from environmental disaster by sending colonists to other worlds using Quarton blocks to harness Dark Energy. But not everyone wants to see the bridge succeed, and an attack at the completion ceremony sees the destruction of the project, and the arrival of four aliens on Earth 5,000 years ago.

But they didn’t come alone, and the surviving Quarton blocks are scattered across the planet. As each block is discovered, the alien refugees are reborn to continue the search. Two of them are scientists from the team that created the bridge, and two of them are the terrorists behind the attack. Each of the four characters lives multiple lives, always remaining true to their original convictions. The mastermind and the engineer, fighting to rebuild the bridge and return home, and the rebels, seeking to destroy the Quartons before they can be used.

The story begins in 2067 in a war-ravaged London. Fen is a scavenger, searching for anything useful in the ruins. Her group pools their resources and trades them for food and other essentials. It’s a hard life, not helped by the cruel leader of her scavenging gang. But Fen has a secret – a block of stone that glows, and gives her dreams of other lives and other places.

Fen doesn’t remember who she is, or that the stone is calling the others to London – and she has no idea how her life is about to change.

It’s a great premise – alien technology, reincarnated characters, and a central relationship that plays out in every generation. Sometimes the blocks are saved, and sometimes the rebels destroy them, but all four players are trapped by the Quartons and compelled to risk everything to find them. Keeping track of which character is which can be a challenge as we glimpse previous lives and previous conflicts. The author warns us up front that this is the case, but he also reassures us that everything will be clear in the end. It is a testament to his strong characterisation and storytelling that this is, indeed, the case. It might be confusing at times, but everything falls into place in the final action-packed pages.

This is an original and ambitious story, and the author skilfully steers us through the important events across time, space, and multiple reincarnations. Bring on Book Two!

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Review cross-posted to GoodReads.

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