Mikaela Everett’s science-fiction debut, The Unquiet, takes readers into a cold war between two (almost) identical Earths. The planets are duplicates in every way, except one. The people of Earth 2 know something the residents of Earth 1 do not: two identical places are a paradox that cannot continue to exist, and Earth 2 is slowly fading out of being. But its people are not willing to disappear into oblivion quietly. They are training their children as sleeper spies who will infiltrate Earth 1 to kill and replace their duplicates, so that once the war truly starts, the people of Earth 2 will already have a strong foothold and eventually take over the surviving planet.
The story centres on Liriel, who, through some realistically harsh sleeper training and the machinations of her guardian mother figure, the Madame, is meant to become a dehumanized killing machine ready to slip into the other Liriel’s life on Earth 1. But can she ever truly become the other Liriel? Can a killer who has never known love and tenderness successfully replace a peaceful and happy girl living on an apricot farm with her caring family? Liriel’s story is a mind-
bending exploration of nature versus nurture, in which a young girl – raised to be a ruthless, self-sufficient, and emotionally detached assassin – finds that she is ultimately also capable of love.
An overall sense of distance from a concrete time and place is both a positive and negative aspect of the book. Everett’s sparse and occasionally ambiguous writing style focuses the story on Liriel’s experience and her inner identity crisis, but the girl’s loose attachment to the world, other characters, and sometimes even the narrative, forces the reader to continually grasp for understanding. This gives the reading experience a visceral and almost investigational quality, requiring the reader to constantly struggle to comprehend Liriel and her motivations.
Those hoping for a dystopian saga featuring a kick-ass teen heroine and a fraught love story should look elsewhere. With similarities to Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go and Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now, The Unquiet is a tale of aching internal and external conflict.