Works by local authors: new young-adult science-fiction novel and a Gettysburg travelogue | Pittsburgh City Paper

Works by local authors: new young-adult science-fiction novel and a Gettysburg travelogue

Joshua David Bellin's Freefall, W. Stephen Coleman’s Discovering Gettysburg

Reviews of the first 50 pages of recent books by local authors.

FREEFALL. Joshua David Bellin’s third book of young-adult science fiction (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 361 pp.) takes place in 3151, as the fortunate few who fled an uninhabitable Earth wake up deep in space after a 1,000-year sleep. But teen-age protagonist Cam has landed on the wrong planet, with his fellow 1,017-year-old childhood friends but without the girl he loves, whom he first encountered in 2050, when he was a privileged Upperworld kid and she was a Lowerworld revolutionary. Early chapters alternate between present action and 22nd-century backstory, with Bellin loading Cam’s first-person narration with hints that the story he’s been told about his corporate-run society (and the impoverished people who live outside it) are false: Was it really the brown-skinned Lowerworlders (including the one he first fell in love with after glimpsing her illicitly on the 22nd-century internet) who ruined the planet? Bellin (Survival Colony 9) writes in a brisk style with a fair amount of emotional insight, and his detailed and thoughtful world-building is a viable backdrop for an improbable Romeo-and-Juliet narrative.

DISCOVERING GETTYSBURG. Retired theater professor W. Stephen Coleman turns his obsession with Gettysburg (he’s visited more than 40 times) into a loping travelogue, blending historical narrative with encounters with contemporary tour guides, hoteliers and the like. A novel component are the nearly 200 engaging caricatures of both Civil War personages and modern Gettysburgers by local illustrator Tim Hartman. The book (Savas Beatie, 274 pp.) is loaded with information — a later chapter even explores the lives of historical re-enactors. Coleman’s enthusiasm and curiosity are palpable. And given how the Civil War remains, wrenchingly, with us, to explore how history filters into the present is a promising tack. However, perhaps easygoing to a fault, Coleman seems to take everything he sees at face value. He’s written a celebratory book rather than a critical one. So if you’re looking for, say, consideration of the conflicts between profitable tourism, the demands of doing history, and keeping local residents happy, Discovering Gettysburg probably isn’t your best bet. But if you’re thinking of visiting Gettysburg yourself, it’s a good place to start.