Photographer, book reviewer, mama, cat-lover in Seattle. Originally from England.
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RELEASES TODAY JAN 7, 2020
Need an exciting, genre-bending book to kick-start your 2020 and pull you out of your winter doldrums?
'Oasis' by Katya de Becerra, is a speculative fiction novel, a YA adventure thriller, and the perfect antidote to any complaints about it being too cold in January (at least in some parts of the world right now).
This is the second novel by Katya and it's quite different from her debut 'What The Woods Keep'; WTWK was set in the woods of Colorado, where you could almost feel the cool, damp air coming off its spooky pages, but 'Oasis' will hit you with a blast of desert heat and entrap you in its 'Twilight Zone'-like warped reality.
The oasis saved them. But who will save them from the oasis?
Alif had exciting summer plans: working on her father’s archaeological dig site in the desert with four close friends . . . and a very cute research assistant. Then the sandstorm hit.
With their camp wiped away, Alif and the others find themselves lost on the sands, seemingly doomed . . . until they find the oasis. It has everything they need: food, water, shade—and mysterious ruins that hide a deadly secret. As reality begins to shift around them, they question what’s real and what’s a mirage.
The answers turn Alif and her friends against one another, and they begin to wonder if they’ve truly been saved. And while it was easy to walk into the oasis, it may be impossible to leave . . .
Blending science-fiction, adventure, and mystery, the book begins with Alif and a group of her four friends traveling to Dubai, to work on her father's archaeological dig. When a sudden sandstorm wipes away the desert camp, the group finds themselves stranded out in the dunes, with no sight of the dig or anything remotely near civilization on the horizon. When they find an unexpected oasis, which provides them with food, water, shade, and a sliver of hope for survival, the friends decide to wait things out, hoping to be rescued. The discovery of an ancient object changes their fates entirely, and reality becomes harder to hold on to as they feel sucked into what feels like the Twilight Zone crossed with a perilous episode of Lost.
Their friendships are tested as the tension and fear grow; trust between them dissolves and the oasis and all that it holds, is a threat to their perception and ultimately, their lives. Things aren't always as they seem in the oasis...
I became an instant fan of Katya's writing with her first book and this is because of her wildly intelligent storytelling, which has roots in science and her own experience, and her unique brand of 'paranormal thriller.'
The vibe of the book is one of unease from the very start; as much as an Indiana Jones-style archaeological dig seems like it could be exciting, I got the ominous feeling early on that it would eventually be terrifying. The oasis feels too good to be true when the group finds it at first, and when strange things start happening, there is a dread that kicks in.
Katya masterfully creates atmosphere (in both of her books) with her detailed descriptions of the setting, and the oasis becomes another character itself. I actually could feel my anxiety building the longer that Alif and her friends were stuck in the oasis, and as the book continues, a distorted sense of what's real and what's not. I likened the feeling to how I feel when dehydrated, tired and overheated, like the characters themselves (I have horrible heat intolerance these days, so I know I wouldn't have lasted long in this book). While the physical struggle for survival is dire in these conditions, a grip on reality is a greater challenge, something I find even more frightening. This is a theme that continues through to the end of the novel, where questions still will linger for the reader, about perceived realities and even whether it's worth wishing for what we don't have.
*When reading this, I also couldn't help but think of how I feel when I read a book by Blake Crouch, who is another favorite author of mine (Dark Matter, Recursion, Wayward Pines).
'Oasis' will probably leave you feeling unnerved (and maybe a bit sweaty) and while Katya creates a slow build rather than quick twists and turns, it will have carried you far and away from your own present reality. It's dark, even in the blazing sun, and delightfully mind-bending.
Katya de Becerra is the author of What The Woods Keep, a YA genre-bender combining mystery, science fiction, and dark fantasy. Her next novel Oasis will be published in January 2020. She was born in Russia, studied in California and now lives in Melbourne. She earned a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Melbourne in 2014 and has since been working as a university lecturer and a researcher in higher education.
Congrats to you, Katya, on your second novel, the Booklist starred reviews, and for being a BOTM pick! I'm thrilled for you!
You can read my previous review for WHAT THE WOODS KEEP HERE!
**OASIS CONTENT WARNINGS (general): mention/descriptions of blood and injury, turbulence, mentions of bullying, mentions of violent behavior, smoking, swearing, physical & verbal fighting, mentions of divorce, mentions of racism and racist micro-aggressions, the experience of injury/strain, dehydration, drinking alcohol
Content warnings ('spoilery' ones): death by impalement, human bones, mentions of artifact theft and trafficking/smuggling, hospitalization, medical procedure (IV drip), seizures (observed, not experienced), fear of drinking poisoned water
*Warnings are per Katya herself