The Undercurrent – Paula Weston – Text Publishing – Published 31 July 2017
Eighteen-year-old Julianne De Marchi is different. As in: she has an electrical undercurrent beneath her skin that stings and surges like a live wire. She can use it—to spark a fire, maybe even end a life—but she doesn’t understand what it is. And she can barely control it, especially when she’s anxious.
Ryan Walsh was on track for a stellar football career when his knee blew out. Now he’s a soldier—part of an experimental privatised military unit that has identified Jules De Marchi as a threat. Is it because of the weird undercurrent she’s tried so hard to hide? Or because of her mother Angie’s history as an activist against bio-engineering and big business?
It’s no coincidence that Ryan and Jules are in the same place at the same time—he’s under orders to follow her, after all. But then an explosive attack on a city building by an unknown enemy throws them together in the most violent and unexpected way.
The Undercurrent is a fantastic book, Australian futuristic, speculative sci-fi at its very best. Paula Weston delivers on action, family dynamics, politics, environmental destruction, romance with chemistry that is off-the-charts hot, and a genuine Aussie-ness that made me feel totally at home among the gumtrees.
Julianne De Marchi knows she is a little different from everyone else. No one else has an electrical undercurrent inside them, a current that seems impossible to control and is deadly to others. The current stole her normal life, ended her mother’s career and is responsible for leaving them so broke Julianne is willing to interview at Paxton Federation -the enemy- to get a job. But when protests turn violent, Jules is forced to turn to the mysterious Ryan Walsh, who seemingly just happened to be in the same place at the same time, for help. The Feds want to know if Jules and her mother are responsible for the latest attack, the Army, including Ryan, have their own interests in the De Marchi women, and the Paxtons are out for blood. It’s going to be interesting – if Jules can stay alive long enough to find some answers.
The Undercurrent is electric and wildly addictive. I’m a little sad that it’s being promoted as a stand-alone title, as I would love to continue on this wild ride with such amazing characters. I enjoyed reading The Undercurrent as my work lunchtime book, which meant reading it over a long period of time in short, lunchtime bursts. And while it was very difficult to put down at the end of lunch each day, it was very easy to keep picking it back up. And of course, I had to read the end as one big chunk, because there was no way I was putting it down once things started building to a climax.
The Undercurrent is the perfect crossover novel, appealing to older young adult readers, new adult readers and older readers alike. Told through multiple perspectives, with both teenage and adult protagonists, this book is approachable for so many readers. While technically it is a futuristic speculative novel, it has a grounding in an all-too-real and scary present and future. I enjoyed the world Paula Weston has created. The politics of food production and genetically modified crops and animals dominate the political climate, while private funding from large corporations control both the government and the army. Farmers must join with GMO corporations or be forced out of water and funding access, and nuclear power has created huge radioactive waste problems.
The setting truly comes to life under the deft hand of Paula Weston. Australian readers will be intimately familiar with the settings, which range from inner-city Brisbane to South Australian farmland. But it was the characters, from Jules and her determined mother to Ryan and his team, that really feature in this book and make it shine. There are a number of characters and they each play an important role in the story. I particularly liked Ryan’s family and the time that was taken to share their story.
The Undercurrent is a creative and unique novel, perfectly situated within the sci-fi genre and yet offering something a little different for readers.
Category: Young adult fiction/new adult fiction.
Genre: Science-fiction, Dystopian.
Themes: Dystopia, farming, food production, military, romance, family, protests, nuclear power.
Reading age guide: Ages 16 and up.
Advisory: Violence – death, injury and fist fights. Frequent sexual references, implied and detailed sex scenes. Frequent coarse language. References to attempted suicide.
Published: 31 July 2017 by Text Publishing.
Format: Paperback, ebook. 383 pages.