Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future
A. S. King
Andre Norton Award nominee
I’m not sure how to sell you on this book, but I really want to.
The summary of A.S. King’s Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future makes it sound much weirder than it really is: Glory and her best friend Ellie drink a bat and can suddenly see both the past and the future when they look into people’s eyes.
What? Yes, you heard me right. They DRINK a bat.
No, I don’t really know why they drink a bat. Technically, what they do is mix the desiccated remains of a bat (bat dust, maybe?) with beer and drink it. Yeah, I guess you could say they were drunk, but it was one of those things that makes slightly more sense when you read it, if only because it falls squarely under the category of “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”
Glory named the bat Max Black (for the photography term) and kind of, sort of decided it was maybe God. And now Glory can see the past and the future. This is particularly problematic for a couple of reasons. First, because the “transmissions” from the future are bleak and involve something called the Second American Civil War that reads like some kind of feminist nightmare brought on by the craziest of the right wing crazies.
Secondly, Glory doesn’t seem to have a future. At all.
Glory kind of figures she wouldn’t have one, though. She’s graduating from high school with no particular plans. Her mother committed suicide when she was five–stuck her head in the oven. Glory has been living with her dad in the same house, with no oven, and a whole lot of dealing with it by not dealing with it.
This book is about dealing with it.
Yeah, it’s about the bat and the visions the bat give Glory and Ellie, but in a way it feels more like a magical realism story than a fantasy or science fiction one, because that’s entirely secondary to the plot. In fact, the fantastical visions solve the real world problems that Glory is facing. So the book ends up being about complicated relationships – both personal and sexual ones, but also the relationship you have with grief and with your own agency and constructing your own future. This novel is about being awkward and genuine, and how that actually makes you the coolest kid in class, despite being convinced you’re alone and dorky. It’s about real life, about how sunsets are sometimes boring, and the transformativeness of the smile of a stranger.
And a bat, Max Black, who might be God or something.
I cannot exactly explain why this book is as awesome as it is, except to say that it’s first book in a while to make me cry. If you’re the kind of SF/F reader who needs to know why drinking the bat made things happen, this book might make you a little crazy. If you can just let go and enjoy the ride, however, it’s a damn good one.