Upriver, Downriver by Aaron Ward

When outsiders arrive to help an isolated farming community struggling with drought, the technology they bring causes strife and division.

Following wars which have devastated the land, the people of the Sarpsis valley have deliberately isolated themselves from the technological civilization ‘upriver’ and everything that goes with it. They survive by farming and hunting, but it’s a hard life, especially when a long drought hits. Then upriver folk arrive to help them out — but are their motives purely altruistic, or are they more interested in the valley’s unusual mutant children?

Told from the point of view of three boys who despite unusual abilities are rather typical teenagers, this is a story of a usually peaceful community torn apart by toxic secrets. While the style is folksy the writing is sophisticated and accomplished. It’s rather long and the start is slow, but very readable and worth sticking with for the compelling plot and well-developed characters. There are some editing errors but nothing too annoying.

The story has a distinct allegorical feel, but thankfully it’s not heavy-handed and the reader is left to draw their own conclusions.

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