Nina Allan's The Rift was published by Titan Books in July 2017.
Information about Nina Allan:
Nina Allan's debut novel The Race was shortlisted for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, the BSFA Award and the Kitschies Red Tentacle. She has won the BSFA Award for Short Fiction, the Grand Prix de l'Imaginaire, and the Aeon Award. She has been shortlisted for the British Fantasy Award four times and was a finalist for the 2014 Shirley Jackson Award.
Click here to visit her official website.
Information about The Rift:
Selena and Julie are sisters. As children they were closest companions, but as they grow towards maturity, a rift develops between them.
There are greater rifts, however. Julie goes missing at the age of seventeen. It will be twenty years before Selena sees her again. When Julie reappears, she tells Selena an incredible story about how she has spent time on another planet. Selena has an impossible choice to make: does she dismiss her sister as a damaged person, the victim of delusions, or believe her, and risk her own sanity in the process? Is Julie really who she says she is, and if she isn’t, what does she have to gain by claiming her sister’s identity?
The Rift is a novel about the illusion we call reality, the memories shared between people and the places where those memories diverge, a story about what might happen when the assumptions we make about the world and our place in it are called into question.
A REVIEW OF NINA ALLAN'S THE RIFT
Nina Allan's The Rift is one of the most compelling, ambitious and immersive reading experiences of the year. Besides being a thought-provoking exploration of love, loss, alienation, memories and identity, it's also a thoughtful meditation on relationships and mental health. It's different from and more original than other new speculative fiction novels, because the author has written an incredibly enticing story that features challenging themes and issues. To be honest, The Rift is one of the most rewarding literary speculative fiction novels I've ever had the pleasure of reading.
Nina Allan is an author who has never failed to impress me with her fiction. She's one of the most talented speculative fiction authors I've ever come across, because she writes beautiful, haunting and thought-provoking prose that leaves you fully satisfied with its literary values and alluring strangeness. The Rift is an excellent example of her writing skills, because it's deeply engaging and features excellent prose. It's a seamless blend of literary fiction, science fiction, mystery fiction and psychological thriller fiction with horror and slipstream elements. The author succeeds in combining different elements and various genres, because she does it with confidence and dares to be experimental.
The Rift is a story two sisters, Selena and Julie. Selena and Julie used to be close when they were young and had their own habits. They enjoyed each other's company and spent lots of time together. As they grew older they became more distant from each other and a gap formed between them. Soon Julie went missing and everything changed. One day, many years later, Selena gets a phone call from Julie. The phone call suprises her and she doesn't quite believe the person calling is Julie. Julie wants to meet Selena so that they can get to know one another again. They agree to meet each other. When they meet, Selena has trouble believing that her sister has really come back and she tests her. When Julie opens up about her life, she tells Selena an incredible and unbelievable story about how she has spent time on another planet. Julie claims to have accidentally travelled through a rift in space-time continuum to Tristane. Selena finds herself facing a difficult to choice, because she can either believe her sister or she can dismiss her as a damaged person who can't handle what has happened to her.
This novel is a story about different kinds of rifts that can - given the right circumstances - exist or develop between people. The rift that has developed between Selena and Julie is realistic, because they have not seen each other in years and Selena finds herself wondering about what has happened to her sister, because she is not very forthcoming about the years when she was missing. There's also a kind of a rift between Selena and her father, Raymond, because Raymond begins to suffer from mental problems, but I'll write more about that later on.
The characterisation is excellent. The author creates a vivid portrayl of two sisters and their lives. What makes the characterisation especially effective is the author's way of writing about the characters' lives in a believable way, because she fully introduces the primary characters to her readers and also writes well about the secondary characters.
Selena is a well-created protagonist. She is one of the most fully fleshed characters I've ever seen in speculative fiction novels, because the author writes about her life and feelings in a literary way and creates a complex vision of a woman whose life is shaken by her sister's sudden appearance after twenty years. Julie's appearance brings back many memories and Selena finds herself thinking about them and her past.
Cally and Noah are well-created supporting characters who live in Tristane and are connected to Julie. The author reveals a few important things about their lives, but leaves a lot unsaid and only hints at certain things, because she excels at writing about minor things that have an impact on the characters' lives. She explores their lives in scarce yet profound way and proves that sometimes less is more.
Selena's friendship with Stephen Dent, an older math teacher who has lived in Japan, is fascinating, because Stephen offers her a place to escape her normal life. When Stephen kills himself, Selena experiences her first sense of loss. She is troubled by guilt, because she might have been able to persuade him not to do it. I also enjoyed reading about how Selena became friends with her boss, Vanja, who is a jeweller and whose husband may be involved in criminal activities, because their friendship is interesting.
I find the author's way of exploring what the disappearance of a family member does to a family realistic, because there's harsh realism in her writing style that highlights the events. The author writes unflinchingly about the consequences of Julie's disapperance and how it affects Selena, Raymond and Margery. Raymond's mental problems are described well, because it's easy to believe that a man's personality can change when something dramatic happens to him. Raymond begins to suffer from mental illness after Julie disappears and his life changes (it feels as if Raymond has suffered a severe wound that begins to fester and never heals). The author tells how Selena feels about her father's condition and how her mother copes with the situation.
I think it's great that the author also pays attention to what the police officers do when someone goes missing, because these little things add quite a lot of realism to the storyline and make it even more intriguing. The actions of the police officers feel convincing and the advice they give to the Rouane family is sensible.
The author explores identity and memories in a multi-faceted way that makes readers think about what has happened and how the characters lives have been affected by the happenings. Who or what Julie is, is explored in mesmerising details, because Julie may not be who she claims to be. There's a possibility that she may be an imposter who knows detailed information about the real Julie's life.
Julie's amazing story about having lived on another planet is simply astonishing and wonderfully detailed, because it feels that she truly may have experienced what she claims to have experienced. Although her account of the events is convincing, there's just the right amount of doubt to make the reader question the credibility of her story.
I love the author's worldbuilding, because she creates a stunning vision of Tristane, its city-states and its wilderness. She excels at detailed worldbuilding, because she gradually writes more about the alien world and lets her readers marvel at and think about the strangeness of the planet before delving into further details about its culture, history and society.
It was compelling to read about Tristane, because the author has a created a stunning vision of another planet and reveals amazing sights to her readers. The planet's history, geography, culture, society and residents are explored in a surprisingly detailed way. This kind of worldbuilding is not often found in literary speculative fiction novels.
Parasitic beings have often appeared in speculative fiction stories, but not many of them have been as captivating and terrifying as the creef in this novel. The creef are isopods, parasitic beings, whose hosts turn into them during a complex biological process. The creef pose a serious threat to people who are not wary and accidentally become infected by their eggs and larvae. The infection leads to the person being fully consumed and devoured by the isopod.
The author's effortless way of writing about memories captivated me. It was fascinating to read about how Selena thought about her childhood and how she remembered the happenings. As it is with memories, certain things are clear while others are vague, and there are things that may haunt us afterwards, because may feel sorry for doing or hiding something. All of this is explored deftly in the story.
One of the best things about this novel is that there are no easy answers to the events, because the author never underestimates the intelligence of her readers, but offers them compelling and thought-provoking scenes that demonstrate the complexity of life, existence and human condition. The story is so well-told that you can't help but think about what has happened and what is real. I love this kind of storytelling, because it stimulates my imagination and appeals to my sense of style.
The use of documents, police reports and extracts from various books feels fresh, because they emphasise many events and reveal several things. I found myself captivated by them, because they feel authentic and offer information about many the events, but also raise questions.
The ending is simultaneously harrowing, strange and rewarding, because readers are offered several choices that may explain what has happened to Julie. I won't go into details about what the choices are, but I can mention that each of them is plausible. It's up to us readers to gather all the facts and interpret the events, because Julie's amazing story may be real or product of a damaged and disturbed mind.
Nina Allan's literary prose is beautiful and nuanced. In this novel, she has created an observant and intriguingly fragmented story that reveals complex truths about life, memories and human condition. I firmly believe that readers who are familiar with the works by such authors as Gene Wolfe, Christopher Priest, David Rix, Douglas Thompson, Aliya Whiteley, Oliver Langmead, Brendan Connell, Joel Lane and Andrew Hook will love the author's writing style.
I give this novel full five stars on the scale from one to five stars, because I was deeply impressed by it and enjoyed the characterisation. I will soon re-read it, because I consider it to be one of the best novels of the year.
Nina Allan's The Rift is an exceptionally rich, haunting and immersive reading experience that will linger on your mind for a long time after you've finished reading it. It's unlike any other novel you're likely to pick up, because it's something unique and has a satisfyingly complex structure. If you're yearning to read something different and compelling, I strongly urge you to read this outstanding novel and immerse yourself into its strangely compelling world.
Very highly recommended!