Scared of what they could do, Earth exiled starchildren to Mars. Among them is one the worlds fear above all. Slade Hawk. Simply saying her name will trigger alarms and create chaos. Bone Lords hunt her, the Order of the Roses watches over her. When things get out of hand, Koa Brye, a professor at UMars and the leader of the Roses, finally springs into action.
The Heartbeat of a Million Dreams is a sci-fi story about a unique being, a saviour, a superheroine, and also a story of being neurodivergent in a neurotypical world, of masking, trying to adapt, trying to fit in (the author’s daughter is on the autistic spectrum and this firsthand knowledge is reflected in the character). It’s told from both MCs’ POVs in alternate chapters. When we’re in Slade’s head, it feels busy. Too much of everything. Overwhelmingly wordy, the effect of which is an echo of what Slade feels in the world: “Too loud, too bright, too close, too much”. Slade expresses her feelings in images, her senses driving her emotions. When asked how she’s feeling, she answers “purple” and it makes complete sense.
Drop me in the middle of a crowd of strangers and my thoughts will sound a lot like Slade’s. Not the monster part, not the hunted part, not the powerful part. I am not close to Slade by any stretch of the imagination but there are parts I can relate to. The sensory overload, for one. The self-preservation strategies. For a very long time, I thought I didn’t care when people hurt. I tend to switch off when others are sad, when they suffer, when they’re in pain. I understood a few years ago that it’s not that I don’t care, it’s that I protect myself from caring. Because it hurts and I feel helpless and I don’t know how to react. This paragraph in one of Slade’s chapters resonates almost painfully: “Some think me cold, think me callous, think me numb, but it’s a reaction, not an action. Others overload me, overwhelm me with their energy, as Koa does now. Her emotions assault me – too many and too complex – so I distance myself to stay afloat. It does not mean I do not care. It does not mean I do not feel. It means I care and feel too much, too close.”
And so while the story I read was very much sci-fi, it was also very much real. Even though it’s only a novella, reading The Heartbeat of a Million Dreams took a lot of energy out of me. I can’t honestly say I enjoyed the experience all the time but it certainly was fascinating.
This review is focused on Slade but Koa, the other MC, is extraordinary too, in a very different way. Her arc speaks of trust and betrayal, of love and courage and sacrifice. I’ll stay away from the secondary characters, it would be too easy to spoil.
As for the worldbuilding, I loved it. Scot doesn’t need to overdo it to transport the reader to a world that mixes sci-fi and fantasy. The line between the two isn’t always obvious and in this book, it’s more than blurry, with stars and planets and gods and titans.
There’s music to Halo Scot’s writing. Poetry and rhythm. It should slow down the pace yet it doesn’t. It feeds the fury and the thrill. For a book in which the writing style is so prevalent, it would make a very exciting movie. Apparently, Scot’s other books are darker, probably too dark for me, but I’m definitely interested. 4.5⭐️
The Heartbeat of a Million Dreams @ amazon
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