Friday, April 10, 2009

Review: Singularity by William Sleator

To borrow from the back of the book: They were twins, but they were different as night and day. Harry was quiet and easygoing. His brother, Barry, was outgoing, arrogant, and sometimes even cruel. But when they went to explore the abandoned farmhouse of their eccentric uncle Ambrose, all that changed. At the farmhouse--where things mysteriously disappeared and animals suddenly aged and died--time seemed to go mad, hours rushing by like seconds.

Singularity is a science fiction book written for older kids, bordering on YA. It was originally published in 1985. It may be a little obscure and old, may seem like just kids sci-fi... but it's every reason I've ever read a book. It was ABOUT something, but something so hard to describe... the only thing I could say when I finished the book (in one sitting of four or five hours, as I recall) was "Oh, my God."

Barry is like every fantasy/sci-fi villain, only back when they were sixteen. He's cruel, self-centered, reckless, power-hungry, and he can charm or coerce anyone into doing whatever he wants. He's frightening. Harry, his twin, takes a little longer to understand, and by the time you do understand him you realize you might not have understood Barry as well as you thought.

The book is tightly written, only necessary things are included. A lot of the plot is internal and it may seem slow, but it is crucial to understanding the point. By the end, you have that painful and yet exultant feeling of understanding everything in the world, simply because you can't put any of it into words. Singularity gives me the feeling sci-fi always did when I was a kid... the feeling that the universe is so much bigger and so much more magnificent than I could ever hope for. The feeling that there is still something to strive for, and that there are things so beautiful they make you feel like crying.

I hope someone else will pick this book up and discover that same feeling while they read it. (But then, isn't that the point of every book we recommend? The hope that someone else will be touched in the same way?)

I've loved every book of William Sleator's that I've read, most acutely this one and Interstellar Pig, and I will continue to search more of them out.

Buy Singularity


  1. To be honest, this sounds like a book I would never read, but your review has me curious. I may check it out.

  2. I just realized that one of the books my students read out of has an excerpt from Instellar Pig!

  3. Interstellar Pig was one of my all-time favorites when I was a kid. (May still be... haven't made a list in a while.) :)

    If it sounds like a book you would never read, you might not get it. Do let me know what you think if you do read it, though!

  4. Hi, My name's Katrina and I have a really big favor to ask of you. Can you reserve it for my friend Zeronexebony (this is her user ID on bookmooch.) I would appreciate it. And to send internationally, all you have to do on a package is write the address, including the country of the moocher, and fill out a customs form at the post office. But depending on where it's going, it could be expensive.

  5. I began reading around the age of 3 and I have PBS (Sesame Street, The Letter People and Reading Rainbow, particularly) to thank for it. By the time I was in school I was reading everything I could get my hands on and was always looking for a bigger challenge. I even read Daniken's "Chariot of the Gods" when I was 9 years old in one weekend at my grandmother's house. 

    My soon to be 8 year old reads exceptionally well for his age but he hasn't shown the same passion for reading that I had as a child...recreationally speaking anyway.  I've been slowly nudging him towards it and he finally took my advice and picked up a "big kid" book from the library..."Wonder Kid Meets the Evil Lunch Snatcher". 

    He was reluctant to get it and reluctant to read it at first because of the 50+/- page count. It was a huge step up from his usual Seuss or Silverstein.  He held the book for about 2 weeks and then he finally opened it up. I'm happy to say that once he started reading...he couldnt stop.  He finished the entire book in one day! He simply couldn't put it down. 

    On the way home from the library I recounted a story that I read in 2nd or 3rd grade about two brothers...a story that deepened my desire to read and changed my life in many ways. It wasn't until late last night that I was able to find the book again because of this post...Sleator's "Singularity"!  Needless to say, I have a copy coming in the mail from 

    I can't wait until he's ready to read it! I've always thought that one of the greatest things in my life has been my passion for reading. I see now that watching that flame kindled in my son is far greater. Thanks for helping me along that path!


    Jason V

    From jv's iPhone


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