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Where the Rock Splits the Sky by Philip Webb

Where the Rock Splits the Sky

by Philip Webb

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Where the Rock Splits the Sky by Philip Webb is one of the most unique and fun books I’ve read in 2014 (which is saying a lot given the other books reviewed here so far this year!). It combines a spooky alien apocalypse premise with the thrills and dangers of the Wild West and I just could not get enough. I can easily see Where the Rock Splits the Sky being turned into a movie given the amazing places the characters explore and I really just can’t recommend it enough to sci-fi fans who are looking for something fresh and yet reminiscent of a certain space cowboy show we all love ;-).
Note: I received Where the Rock Splits the Sky from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Where the Rock Splits the Sky by Philip Webb
Published by Chicken House on March 25th, 2014
Genres: Genre-bender, Post Apocalyptic, YA
Length: 272 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher

The moon has been split, and the Visitors have Earth in their alien grip. But the captive planet? That's not her problem. Megan just wants to track down her missing dad...

The world stopped turning long before Megan was born. Ever since the Visitors split the moon and stilled the Earth, permanent sunset is all anyone has known. But now, riding her trusty steed Cisco, joined by her posse, Kelly and Luis, Megan is on the run from her Texas hometown, journeying across the vast, dystopic American West to hunt down her father. To find him, she must face the Zone, a notorious landscape where the laws of nature do not apply. The desert can play deadly tricks on the mind, and the quest will push Megan past her limits. But to solve the mystery of not just her missing father but of the paralyzed planet itself, she must survive it--and an alien showdown.

The world in Where the Rock Splits the Sky is just amazing and hooked me all the way through. I was constantly excited about the next place that Megan and company would come across during their travels and just couldn’t get enough of the descriptions of each place. The premise gives you a great idea of the eerie nature of the setting: the Earth has literally stopped spinning and the Moon has been destroyed. The land is caught in a forever sunset and things are even weirder in the Zone, where the laws of physics don’t always apply.
For some reason, the Wild West and sci-fi just seem to go together so well, don’t they?? Where the Rock Splits the Sky is a different take on that combination than Firefly, but I loved it just as much. Running from outlaws and catching a stagecoach has a whole new meaning when some of the outlaws are corpses animated by aliens ya know?
The writing and description in Where the Rock Splits the Sky is just beautiful. I keep wanting to try to tell you all the amazing settings, but I just can’t do justice to them the way that Webb does, so you need to just read Where the Rock Splits the Sky to find out ;-). The title is an excellent example of the eerie description that Webb is able to capture though :D.
Where the Rock Splits the Sky is short so the plot is fast and never has a chance to lag. Just as Megan has figured out the secrets of one place in the Zone, another mystery or goal presents itself and the discoveries begin anew.

The characters in Where the Rock Splits the Sky aren’t really the main focus. Partially due to the short length of the book, I just didn’t get a solid feel for each of the three teens in our merry band and feel like they are more acquaintances than friends to me.
Despite my love of the descriptions, the dialogue in Where the Rock Splits the Sky feels a bit off at times. Megan speaks and thinks in slightly stilted sentences for some reason.
Luis is a native Spanish speaker and doesn’t have perfect English, so there is Spanish thrown in from time to time that isn’t always translated completely. This left me not 100% sure what Luis’ had been trying to express and I suspect some people will be itching for a translation.

I very thoroughly enjoyed Where the Rock Splits the Sky, to the point where my boyfriend started poking fun at how often I tried to describe scenes to him because they were just so cool! I couldn’t do justice though of course, so that just made him laugh at me more ;-). If you are a fan of eerie landscapes and some completely original sci-fi places, you have got to read Where the Rock Splits the Sky. Gah, just go read it! ( )
  anyaejo | Aug 12, 2015 |
Curiouser and curiouser…
The peculiar situations that are constantly unfolding in Where the Rock Splits the Sky are completely engrossing. The planet has stopped turning and in the area of Texas where Megan has grown up, they are locked in a forever sunset. What would it be like for it always be that time of day!? – and to have no moon because it crumbled apart 20 years ago? While the earth doesn’t rotate anymore it does continue on its orbit around the sun. Billions of people are dead and millions disappeared having been abducted by the aliens or just weird phenomena. Occasionally some return and people are frequently inhabited by the visitors (aliens) themselves. Some technology still works but it doesn’t work everywhere and towns are spread across the countryside broken up by dangerous lands between that defy all natural laws once you step within them. These lands are constantly shifting their borders sometimes releasing one town to swallow up another. It’s all so eery and sets a great tone for the story and the three teens moving through it.

The Zone creates the perfect opportunity for the author to showcase some off the wall things that were in turn shocking, hilarious and unsettling. There was no way to know what the heck to expect next and this more than anything else kept me reading. I definitely did like the combination of science fiction, with an almost magic like feel, to that of a futuristic western.

Here is where the other shoe drops
So hands down, Where the Rock Splits the Sky is a good story but it fell short of my expectations. I really wished I could have loved it instead of only liking it. However, there were a few key things that really hampered my enjoyment and more than peeved me as I continued reading. Some things I can get used to while reading others…not so much.

The hauntingly vivid writing style sucked me in and really made me see and feel all the things being described. But! But but! The dialogue pulled me right back out of the story. Every time someone opened their mouth it all felt too forced together because of their warring speech patterns. Megan talks like an adult who is trying to sound sophisticated, Kelly – like she’s a 10 year old trying to impress the big kids, always cracking lame jokes and Luis’s first language is Spanish so all of his dialogue is in broken English. There is some very slight use of Spanish, usually without translations, some is decipherable but could probably also leave you feeling like you want to look up the words to be sure. I never like that feeling. The characters themselves are done in extremes. Overly serious, overly hammy, or lacking a personality that I can attach to because of the disconnect in dialogue.. Due to each of the characters personalities and dialogue styles veering drastically in different directions it made those parts of the book not gel together for me.

There is however on the flip side some really great and hilarious moments. So don’t get me wrong thinking its all bad. I did still like the characters otherwise I wouldn’t have continued reading.

“Will you be able to drive it across the gap?” I have no idea what this vehicle is capable of.

“Sure. Just put you belt on, will you, goddammit?”

“¡Rápido, Kelly!” Luis cries.

Kelly turns the engine on and looks at me. There is a reckless glint in her eye. “Always wanted to do this.”

“What?” I ask. The truth is I am a little shaken by the crooked death-wish smile she throws me.

Where the Rock Splits the Sky is an intriguing read if a touch irritating at times. I felt like a bouncy ball as I was reading, taking turns between in love and annoyed with it. The things that bothered me I truly believe might not matter to other readers at all. I know if it weren’t for these little things bugging me I would have loved it because all of the oddball things were so much fun. Overall it was still a good read and one that I’d say other sci-fi young adult, post apocalyptic readers will really enjoy. ( )
  Pabkins | May 2, 2014 |
Review courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales

Quick & Dirty: A fascinating setting literally throws the characters every which way on their journey to get answers to what’s happened to the world and possibly how to save it. A refreshing read exploding with creativity and adventure.

Opening Sentence: Leaning against the doorpost of the smithy, I pretend it is a normal day.

The Review:

Anything can happen, and does, in Philip Webb’s Where the Rock Splits the Sky. We start with a typical old western town, complete with horses and a total lack of technology, only to find that we are actually in the future, where “something” has stopped the technology from working. The first couple chapters even involve the sheriff and his “last-stand situation” in the jail house, but then we learn that the major scuffles on earth aren’t with your typical outlaws, but actually with aliens. Given the unique premise of the book, it would seem harder to set up the book without a lot of verbage, but Webb delves right into the action and just keeps it coming. We actually do not learn a ton about the aliens or anything else until later. The author obviously intended it that way so I won’t give away any of that in this review.

Webb does a phenomenal job of building the setting and the characters. Although the setting is in a dystopian era, almost all the elements he uses are familiar. It is difficult not to think that this story would make an awesome movie, but honestly, since the author did his job in describing each adventure in detail, this adventure is much better as a book for those that enjoy reading. I think there is a lot more connection with the characters this way. Sometimes the detail gets a little wordy and confusing, but the book overall isn’t so long that it would be considered tedious by any means, just wordy in parts, more so at the end. Since Webb gets right down to business at the beginning of the book, there wasn’t quite enough to explain the ending, which was somewhat abrupt and disjointed. The reader is hit with quite a bit of information at once that is never adequately explained. The experience to get to that point is better this way, and the important loose ends are tied up, but it does seem to leave us a little confused. Another reason for this is that we are limited to Megan’s point-of-view rather than any sort of all-knowing narrator, and she learns a lot about herself along the journey, and even more at the end. The point of the book becomes more about her discovery of self than what has happened to the world as a whole, and so we end with the focus on her.

Megan is a driven, matter-of-fact character, and in order to complete her journey, she has to start putting more trust in her friends, Luis and Kelly. Luis is a sweet guy, soft-spoken and protective, but Megan’s relationship with him is confusing. This is one element in the novel that is vague and underutilized. Luis’s character could have been magnified from the convenient role that he plays, to a necessary role that he could have played. He starts out as someone Megan (and the audience) could really fall in love with, but his character doesn’t keep developing throughout the book. Kelly is sassy and lovable, she really is the perfect complement to Megan’s totally serious character. She gets into trouble with her shenanigans, but doesn’t think so hard that she can’t get them out of other shenanigans when necessary. One interesting twist of the western theme of this book is that the horses aren’t just necessary tools in the plot, but are actual characters themselves, with not only names, but personalities. As such, we develop a relationship with the horses and actually care about the role they play in the plot, which adds to the experience.

There were several things in this novel that were refreshing. The first was that the characters were believable. They didn’t fit into typical overused stereotypes. They all had flaws and made mistakes and had to rely on each other. They would be extremely difficult to label, but that made them more relatable. As a dystopian novel, the plot wasn’t stereotypical either. We start out thinking the aliens are stereotypical but by the end it would be difficult to put them in any alien category, and even at the end we are questioning the label of “alien” at all. The setting in this novel is perhaps the biggest fresh breath of dystopian air. Nothing about it is predictable, and yet, we can still understand it. It is simply spectacular and this book is a perfect read for those searching for something new and clean.

Notable Scene:

Wesley leads us toward a cauldron set upon a fire of dung bricks. A tiny crone picks up a net of black shapes and smacks it against the cave wall. It’s not until I get closer through the fumes and steam that I see the stunned bodies of bats in the netting–their pug faces like a hoard of miniature demons.

She stares at me through her cataracts and guts the bats one by one with a practiced swipe of her cleaver, then tosses the into the pot.

“Great,” mumbles Kelly. “Bat stew cooked on a bat-shit fire by an old bat.”

I nudge her in the ribs, because I feel sure that Kelly’s humor will not be appreciated in this place.

“Thanks all the same,” says Kelly, aiming an injured glare at me. “But I just ate at the last town.”

“Might as well get used to it, sugar,” snaps the crone. “Bats is all we got. Exceptin’ turnips. And they done shot with maggots this year.”

FTC Advisory: Chicken House/Scholastic provided me with a copy of Where the Rock Splits the Sky. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review. ( )
  DarkFaerieTales | Mar 20, 2014 |
Grades 9-12

Webb’s Where the Rock Splits the Sky tackles themes explored in The Age of Miracles and The War of the Worlds – an alien invasion has destroyed the moon and caused the Earth to stop spinning on its axis. The aliens attempt to inhabit human bodies and infiltrate cities; one particular area, the Zone, seems to be a playground of experiments for the aliens, with cities flying up into the air and rivers of stone and sand. A trio of friends, led by Megan, forage into the Zone in an attempt to find Megan’s father, who presumably has answers to the invasion. Throughout the journey, the trio battle aliens-cum-humans, sleeping air sickness, and outlaws. The ending ties up rather too neatly, but those who are a fan of such will be pleased. Webb excels in descriptions of the highly imaginative now-alien environment; where the book struggles is with the thin character development. Even though our heroine is with us from page one, she remains an alien herself from the reader. ( )
  amandacb | Feb 11, 2014 |
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Long after the Visitors split the moon and stopped Earth from turning, Megan and two friends mount their horses and set out across the Zone, where laws of nature do not apply, hoping to solve the mystery of her missing father and of the paralyzed planet itself.… (more)

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