Epiphyte Book Review up to review index


by Steven Gould

hardcover edition

Charlie Newell has his own private earth, untouched by humans. On the other side of the hidden door in his dead uncle's Texas ranch, the bison still roam, as do mastodon and sabretooth tigers and bears (oh my). With the help of four newly-graduated high school friends, Charlie plans to use the gate to become very, very rich. To fund his scheme, he traps and sells twenty passenger pigeons at extortionate prices, but the sudden appearance of extinct birds doesn't go unnoticed. While Charlie and his friends are hauling and hammering and flying and skydiving and camping on the other side of the gate, the Feds are tracking them down.

The relationships among the main characters resemble a soap opera at times, but I suppose that's inevitable when you cram five teenagers and their hormones into a single plot, and Wildside is mercifully free of the armchair psychoanalysis that irritated me in Gould's first novel, Jumper. Gould also refrains from environmentalist chest-beating, rather to my surprise.

The characters are constantly jumping into and out of small airplanes, and there's a tremendous amount of detail about flying, from the preflight checklist to putting the plane away and cleaning off the bugs. My eyes glazed over whenever I hit another passage of pilot jargon, but much of the detail is important to the story, and it does add a degree of plausibility.

For most of the the book, Wildside is an absorbing adventure story, with a minimum of attention paid to the science fiction aspects. Events move rapidly enough that my suspension of disbelief only had time for the occasional twinge at the idea of a handful of 18-year-olds turning into steely-eyed Frontier Commandos. The "how" and "why" of the alternate earth become more important once the kids are embroiled in a battle to keep the gate out of the hands of the Evil Government Boogeymen. The "why" is wildly implausible, but the story is so much fun that I don't care.

I enjoyed Wildside immensely. If you're looking for something fun but not particularly deep, I recommend it highly; and if you haven't read Jumper, I recommend that too.

Want power in another universe? Use an extension cord. Want water? Run a hose.

Okay, so I had to send Rick into town to buy enough heavy duty extension cord and industrial water hose to reach, but it worked. I had my doubts. First time I drove the tractor into the tunnel, to see if it would fit, I'd expected it to stop working halfway down the tunnel.

After all, if it's a different universe, who says it has to have the same laws?

I think I've read too much science fiction.

-- Christina Schulman.
Reviewed in
March 1996

hardcover edition
Publisher: Tor
Date: April 1996
ISBN: 0-312-85473-0
Binding: hardcover
Pages: 316
Price: US $22.95, Canada $33.95

  up to review index
Sep 2001 / CMS