PS Publishing: 2008
Joe Hill introduces readers to a group of children seen through the eyes of a woman named Elaine. They call her Mom, but she’s not really.
Jake had made grass grow where grass could not grow, could never grow. In the acre of sand before her, the world was no longer as it should be, as it had always been, but as Jake wanted it. Reality was a manuscript, recorded in rocks, gasses, DNA. Jake had just rewritten a few lines.
Right from the start, before we know anything else about the boys or the setting, we know that at least one of the boys is some sort of savant who can do amazing things. What we learn later is that each of the boys, except Charley, has some sort of special psi power that lets them change the world. Gunpowder develops our understanding of the complex situation the boys and Elaine are in.
This is straight science fiction. Distant world, psi-powers, terraforming, and starships. Except, these are children with all the power, children developed to have terrible powers available to use, to shape a planet. Yes, it spoils nothing to say that those initial plans go awry. Plans must. The boys aren’t perfect, they aren’t angels (or demons). They are kids with remarkable power. Elaine is assigned to them, but loves them and they love her. It’s that love, naturally, that is the cause of all the pain that is to come.
What works here is that Joe Hill builds to a natural confrontation, and then twists it all to go not where we might expect, but in a direction that suddenly feel organic and natural and right – and brutal. Gunpowder has a tough ending that very much works, and one which raises the question of what happens next.
Oh - if you weren't sure - I liked it and I wanted more of it.
Joe Hill suggests there may be more novellas connecting to this one in the future. I welcome it.
Also, feel free to check out Ziv Wities’ review over at the Fix. He does a much better job with the review.