Mezzowriter's ReadWriter Blog

Reading, Writing, and The Search for Buried Gems of Literature

What I’m Reading #15: Siberia March 14, 2010

I’ve been trying to delve more into the utopian/dystopian fiction genre lately, since I enjoyed Incarceron, Candor, and Genesis so much.

The streak had to end somewhere….


Siberia by Ann Halam

Wendy Lamb Books, 2005

Courtesy of

From Booklist

Gr. 5-8. Unlike the characters in Gloria Whelan’s The Incredible Journey (2003) or Esther Hautzig’s The Endless Steppe 1968), those in Halam’s novel inhabit a metaphorical Siberia–an ice-enveloped future where cataclysmic extinctions of wild mammals have occurred, resulting in what 13-year-old Sloe calls “a poverty of life.” Sloe grew up in a Settlement with her mother, an exiled scientist who secretly nurtured mysterious, genetically engineered life forms that can metamorphose into lost species. When her mother is arrested, 13-year-old Sloe assumes responsibility for the “Lindquist kits” and must brave frostbite, hunger, bandits, and governmental patrols to deliver her cargo to safety. Sloe is both fierce and flawed, and the way her odd animal companions soothe a spirit scarred by privations will speak strongly to many readers. Even so, the foreboding atmosphere casts a chill over the narrative that may limit its audience. Offer this to sf fans who lapped up the provocative science of Nancy Farmer’s The House of the Scorpion (2002) or Halam’s own Taylor Five (2004). Jennifer Mattson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


I forget why I started looking for this one.  Probably a promising synopsis somewhere turned me on to it.  It certainly wasn’t the cover.  The cover of the edition I picked up is probably one of the most unappealing I’ve seen in a long time.   Red and turquoise?  Not much to look at.  Granted, some of the other options really aren’t much better…

Marginally better.

Just my luck, the one I find palatable is from overseas:

Too bad I couldn’t find that one.

I think this book started with a handicap.  Coming on the heels of Catherine Fisher’s Incarceron, it had some big shoes to fill.  It’s possible I’m judging this a little more harshly because what I’m comparing it to feels so much stronger…

Strengths: I thought the inspiration for the plot was unique and had a lot of potential.  Halam does include a brief explanation of where the first ideas for this book came from.  It’s a unique premise.  She also does an admirable job of characterizing Sloe, the main character.

Potential Flaws: This book just didn’t do the plot justice.  I felt like Halam had a great idea in her grasp and presented a lackluster tale instead.  There were times when I’d have read for what felt like hours and was shocked to realized I had only read about 20 pages.  It just doesn’t have the drive I feel a plot should have.  The only thing the book DROVE was me.  CRAZY, every time Sloe refers to “The Lindquists,” like they’re the neighbors down the street instead of the creatures that they are.  This is the kind of YA writing that bothers me; Just because the audience is YA doesn’t mean that plots need to be made more cute.  Or more simple.

My Rating:

If I’d read it BEFORE I read Incarceron, I’d probably have given it 3 stars.  It just fell so far short of what I’d hoped it would be, and what I KNOW this could have been.


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