Wildside, by Steven Gould, (Tor, 2003)

Some kids get a car when they graduate high school. Charlie Newell, however, got an entire parallel world, an Earth where humanity never evolved and extinct species still roam free. The legacy of his missing-and-presumed-dead uncle, the portal hidden in the barn of a private ranch has remained a closely-guarded secret until now, when Charlie decides to share it with his four closest friends. Together, they can embark upon a scheme that will make them all millionaires. A world full of untapped, unplundered resources lies ripe for the taking. All they need to do is raise some capital to fund their expedition out West, and they’re all set. Charlie has that angle covered also. It’s a pity that his plans will attract the attention of an unsavory faction of the government, one willing to use any means necessary to gain control of the portal to the Wildside. The resulting ordeal will push Charlie and his friends to the breaking point, force them to rely upon one another like never before, and exercise every ounce of cunning. Even then, a sacrifice may be required to prevent humanity from despoiling a second world.

I still prefer Gould’s previous book, Jumper, but Wildside is a strong, fast-paced story that manages to surprise more than once, mixing action and intrigue with rich descriptions. Some of the characterization seems a little one-dimensional, especially on the part of the antagonists, and I’ve always been a little dubious about the progression of events leading up to the first real confrontation. I’m not sure if it’s Charlie being overly paranoid, or the government justifying said paranoia, but I was disappointed when that part of the story came to pass, given how much I was enjoying the other subplots. There’s Charlie’s growing self-confidence, the romantic entanglements between the three males and two females, the personal conflicts several people have to deal with, and more. There’s a fine line between “A very special episode…” and believable plotting, and Gould manages to balance it out quite nicely. Aviation enthusiasts take note: there are enough lovingly-detailed scenes of flying to make even me want to learn how to pilot a small aircraft. I’m glad Tor reprinted Wildside; it’s a worthy addition to the Tor Teen imprint, and a fun coming-of-age story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>