Tuesday, 18 September 2012

REVIEW: NEPTUNE’S TEARS by Susan Waggoner (plus science thoughts)

NEPTUNE’S TEARS by Susan Waggoner
Piccadilly Press

It is 2218 and Zee McAdams is an empath, working in a London hospital healing people with her mind. Empaths should avoid emotional distractions like novels – or falling in love with their patients. This is not a problem for Zee, until she meets David, an alien with a secret. From that moment Zee’s heart is pierced. David knows they can’t be together, but he can’t keep away. With everything driving them apart, Zee and David need to fight for their love.

NEPTUNE’S TEARS combines sci-fi and fast-paced action with a heart-achingly beautiful love story. Zee and David fall in love at first sight, but not in a corny way. Zee feels a pull of attraction to him when she meets him, sitting in a hospital room, and everything that happens next – shy, interested conversation, coffeeshop dates – proves that her first instinct was right. My favourite scene between them is a trip to the seaside, where they can almost step out of time and just enjoy being together (with a visit to a bookshop on the way). For me, Zee and David’s urge to treasure every moment they have together has shades of NEVER LET ME GO.

My favourite thing about the book is Zee. Susan Waggoner’s blog tour began with a stop at Girls Heart Books (which I heart) where she said imagining Zee was the beginning of the book, and once she started writing Zee took over. This didn’t surprise me. Zee’s liveliness and warmth light up the pages. She is down to earth and doesn’t realise how attractive she is, but not in that irritating way of some book heroines, where they trudge about going ‘God, it’s so weird, men keep looking at me…’ and you want to shake them and go ‘THEY FANCY YOU’, while maybe kicking them a bit. But Zee’s not like that – she’s just frightened because she’s never been in love before and the mixture of worry and excitement in the way she thinks about David when he’s not there is completely relatable.

I also liked that even though Zee’s heart is swept up with David, she keeps her friends. If, like The Doctor off of Doctor Who, the book has two hearts, then Zee’s friendship with first-year flatmates Rani and Jasmine is the second. One of the most touching moments for me was when Zee, who has previously kept her relationship with David secret, realises she can tell Rani anything. Rani is also a fantastic character – flirty, fun and with an edge that warns people not to mess with her friends.

Another thing I find fascinating about stories set in future worlds is the detail of that world. As well as keeping her friends, Zee still keeps in mind the vitally important job she does as an empath. I enjoyed the imagination behind what she does and watching her connect with her patients and create visions to help them manage their pain. It also becomes clear that Zee has the potential to do more than the usual empath and she has to decide whether this is something she has the courage to do. 23rd-century terrorism has taken a terrifying turn with shock bombs, which have no external signs, but crush people’s organs from the inside.

Oh and also in 2218 photos have become 3d and a cinema date is about 50 MILLION TIMES more awesome. (And I would like to know more about the The Janeys, which are movie awards with the most recent winner being Punk and Prejudice.)

NEPTUNE’S TEARS is a book that intertwines a fascinating future world with a timeless love story – and both will grip you until the end.


I thought you might like to know about some other books I’ve enjoyed which have elements of science in. You might not, in which case you may leave now. And by ‘elements’ I mean features, not Boron. Except for the book ITCH by Simon Mayo where by ‘elements’ I mean Boron.

Really I just like the word Boron because it sounds like a boring moron. When at school I thought science was for borons, because it seemed mostly to involve

Biology: putting bits of potato in water to see if they changed (they didn’t)
Chemistry: lots of these


But now I love science (mostly because as an adult you can take science to mean ‘dinosaurs and space and cool stuff’) and I find it fascinating when fiction explores the details and limits of what we know about the world – and then imagines what if

Science and … comedy


The five-book trilogy (recently extended by Eoin Colfer’s AND ANOTHER THING) tells us of Arthur (in his dressing gown), Ford and the gang as they flee an Earth demolished to make a hyper-space bypass and travel to the (restaurant at the) end of the universe and back, taking in a few pan-galactic gargleblasters and a dose of deathly Vogon poetry along the way. They are accompanied throughout by a book that I really hope someone actually writes one day – the Guide of the title. Adams includes and pokes fun at theories about multiverses, aliens and a translating ear fish that simultaneously proves and disproves the existence of God. But mostly, it is very funny. And harmless. Mostly.

Science and … adventure

ITCH by Simon Mayo

Itchingham Lofte is not your average teenage boy. Unless your average teenage boy recently burnt his eyebrows off in an explosion caused by some of the highly reactive elements he keeps in his room. Itch is on a mission to collect every element in the periodic table, but being an element hunter has its perils – especially when he discovers a new one – element 126, mysterious and, in the wrong hands, deadly. The wrong hands are after element 126 and Itch’s hobby has turned into something far more sinister – he’s being hunted. Simon Mayo wrote this story for his science-mad son and has clearly undertaken meticulous research to get the elements elements of the book right. But at the heart is a thrilling adventure story with quirky and original characters in Itch and his tomboy cousin, Jack.

Science and … tears

NEVER LET ME GO by Kazuo Ishiguro

The story of Kathy, Ruth and Tommy as they grow up in the strange, sad world of Hailsham boarding school  is haunting and unforgettable. It is a story of love in the absence of hope and the power of living in the moment.  

Science and … ARGHH


Speculation about what straightlaced Dr Henry Jekyll’s transformation into his monstrous double whose crimes are decidedly creepy (he tramples a girl??) really means give this novella a uncertain chill that is never resolved - is the transformation real, does he have split personality disorder, or does he know exactly what he's doing? The book raises questions about personality and identity, illustrating how frightening it is when these things become fractured. Penguin also seem to have picked the most scary photo in the world for their front cover.   

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