American author Mary Weber’s duology, The Evaporation Of Sofi Snow and Reclaiming Shilo Snow, may be young adult (YA) science fiction books, but the topics they explore are grounded in facts borne by the worst of humanity. Though set in the distant future, a core part of the story is rooted in the shamefulness of human trafficking, something that happens in the real world today.
For YA readers, it’s a pretty tough topic to contemplate – for any reader, really, what with constant news reports of immigrants trapped in terrible conditions by their employers and kids imprisoned by their guardians. That said, what seems like an abstract subject for a book can truly hit very close to home if we care enough to look.
Beyond the matter of trafficking, Shilo Snow raises ethical questions about human experimentation. One character, knowing her children are ill, sends them into the hands of aliens for testing. Suffice to say, not all of the kids come out alive, and there are disturbing chapters where Sofi and another protagonist, Miguel, must help the survivors deal with the aftermath.
Shilo Snow picks up exactly from where the cliffhanger in Sofi Snow left off. Nation states have dissolved after World War IV, replaced by conglomerates. Journalists have been supplanted by social media reality stars who have amassed hordes of fans that follow and believe in their every move and word.
Our protagonists, programmer extraordinaire Sofi and Earth’s youngest ambassador Miguel, are trapped on a space station by the extraterrestrials known as the Delonese. Sofi knows her brother, Shilo, is alive after seeing his wounded body transported from Earth to the station in a hacked video feed.
Weber keeps the action fast and furious as she barrels this future-tech, gaming-teen, space opera to its conclusion. Like in book one, we get point-of-view chapters from Sofi and Miguel. As the plot zips back and forth between them, a new perspective comes into the picture from Inola Snow, leader of Earth’s most powerful company Corp 30 – and the mother of Sofi and Shilo.
Though previously seen as a standoffish mum who keeps her kids at a distance as she pursues world domination, Inola is humanised in Shilo Snow. Her first child died from an incurable bone cancer when Sofi and Shilo were young, and that death spurred Inola to work with the Delonese.
With their assistance Corp 30 ultimately found a cure for multiple cancers and saved millions of lives. But – and there’s always a catch – the discovery was made by conducting experiments on humans, specifically children that the Delonese were granted access to by Inola and her corporation. These kids were medically probed, scanned and experimented on before their memories were erased and they were returned to Earth.
Do the needs of the many truly outweigh the needs of the few? This is the sort of heavy subject Weber tackles in Shilo Snow. Sofi and Miguel want to make it back to Earth to reveal what they’ve found, but the odds aren’t stacked in their favour. With the government/corporations working against the populace, how can there be a way forward?
In an interview I had with Weber last year, she said this is a story close to her heart. In fact, she said she had the idea even before writing her award-winning Storm Siren trilogy. Now that it’s told, Weber also provides information on how readers can help stop and prevent modern-day trafficking and slavery, most notably by directing them to the non-profit organisation A21.org.
Reclaiming Shilo Snow
Author: Mary Weber
Publisher: Thomas Nelson, young adult science fiction