Publisher: Revolution Publishing Inc. (October 2011)
Narrator: Karen Savage
Audio length: 8 hours 38 minutes
Blurb from Audible.com: Sold into slavery to pirates at the young age of four, Summer learns to survive the rough seas of subterfuge and thieves through silence. When the boat she's lived on most of her life is destroyed, Summer finds herself washed up on the shore of a new world, a phantom universe full of the bizarre and extraordinary. She meets Gage, the one boy who understands the girl with no speech. But when their lives are put on the line, will Summer finally call out? Or will all be lost in the fathomless depth of silence?
Phantom Universe, the first book in the Summer Chronicles, starts off in modern-day England with a woman fleeing from someone or something with her small child. However, pretty soon young Summer is stolen from her mum by slavers. That's where Laura Kreitzer takes us into darker issues. Child slavery is a tough topic to write about and do it well. Young Summer understandably cries for her mother and is beaten into silence. Like permanent silence. All before being sold to a ship's captain (most likely pirates of one sort or another). There, a lot of rough stuff happens (including a near-rape). Yet Summer also makes a friend, Landon. He accepts her silence and teaches her to read and write, which opens communication for her.
This takes us to about the half-way point in the book. I enjoyed it's intensity and trying to puzzle out where the plot was going. Then some visitors to the ship arrive and things get strange. Jaiden, a slave herself who was sold out of the same slaver house as Summer, is now property of The Secret Clock Society. Jaiden somehow manages to blow up the ship and rescue Summer. They end up on a nearby beach.
Then things get a little weirder, but I rode the weird and eventually settled into it. There's a blinding flash of light one night and Jaiden and Summer end up.....in a different time and place. Summer, however, is drained and needs medical attention. Jaiden can't wake her and seeks others. She comes up with soldiers from the League of The Canadian Federation. Cage Appleton is the leader and Cameron Skien is the medtech. Both do what they can for Summer in the field. There are two other soldiers who are less sympathetic.
This is where the story started to waver for me. Summer is 16, Jaiden a few years older. Makes sense, child slaves and all. But these soldiers are like.... what.. 16-20? Cage is 18. From this point forward, the story is about the romance between Summer and Cage, with a whole lot of highschool nonsense thrown in.
So, Summer goes to hospital and eventually has to go to one of the Outlander camps. Think prison camp for rowdy, snotty highschoolers. This part of the story takes place at the Phantom Ship community, former Los Angeles. But we never learn why it is called that. Anyway, once the plot gets free of the Outlander camp, things get a little more interesting. We learn a smidgen more about the Secret Clock Society and about Summer's origins. We also learn that Cage is an expert at catching spies. Excuse me for snort-laughing. It is difficult to be an expert at anything at 18.
Karen Savage has a very beautiful voice. She captured Summer's voice (even though she is silent) very well. The story is told from Summer's point of view so we get many of her thoughts on the situation. Savage had this perfect voice for Cameron - full of sympathy, patience, and gentleness. Since most of the main male characters were young males, the narrator was able to pull those off too.
Pluses: The intensity of the story carries throughout; Summer herself is an intriguing character with lots of challenges; the idea of Canada taking over a chunk of the world in the future is intriguing; lots of cool future-tech gadgets.
Minuses: Silly teen romance aspect; would have liked to know more about the other characters because babysitting Summer throughout was sometimes exhausting; there's high-tech surveillance everywhere, so how did these kids evade it?; very few adults in the story; seems that only kids (vast majority Caucasian) were sucked into the future (no wonder some of the Canadians are pissed); would have been interesting to hear more about the new surroundings, politics, and culture.