Where The Rock Splits The Sky
By Philip Webb
Published by Chicken House
ISBN 978 1 909489 29 5
Twenty years ago, aliens from outer space arrived on Earth and began colonising our planet. The weak human race was powerless to stop them. They were referred to as “Visitors”, and their takeover of Earth was systematic and ruthless.
In Philip Webb’s Where The Rock Splits The Sky, the Visitors stop the Earth’s rotation, creating a planet of perpetual daytime, leaving a weakened sun hanging forever high in the sky. They destroy the moon. But the Earth does not end as some thought it would. It just stays still.
The aliens experimented with inhabiting human bodies, and entire cities were abducted, then brought back to Earth. This new world of perpetual daytime and chaos is the only world that teenager Megan Bridgewater has ever known.
Megan lives in Texas, a state that has reverted back to its cowboy past. Megan’s world is defined by Western clothes, behaviour and clichés. All that is missing is cattle, stage-coach attacks and John Wayne.
The Zone, an alien-occupied area that stretches from the mid-west of America to the Pacific Ocean, is a no-go area for humans because the normal laws of time and nature no longer apply there. Megan’s father has vanished and it’s rumoured that he has wandered into the Zone. It is also rumoured that he holds the key to stopping the Visitors from completely taking over Earth.
There is obviously only one thing that plucky Megan can do.
Mounting her trusty horse Cisco, and joined by her posse, Luis and Kelly, Megan rides out of her Texan hometown into the vast, dystopian Zone to hunt down her father.
Megan is a persuasive and likeable narrator of her own story, and her voice keeps the plot focused in places where it could quite easily spin out of control. She is accessible to both male and female readers, and this is one of the novel’s plus points.
Webb has a tricky path to follow, making sure the narrative and characters of Where The Rock Splits The Sky stay on course and don’t get lost in the dangers of mixing up the demands of two very different types of story. The 2011 movie Aliens v Cowboys failed miserably in this respect, but Webb keeps his novel short at 250 pages so there is no room for packing in overblown detail.
Once the set-up is out of the way and the story takes over, this is a well-paced and well-written slice of teen dystopian fiction that makes every attempt it can to be different. Added bonus: it’s always a pleasure to see a strong female central character charging her way through a world gone bad.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com