Review of The Boy Who Cast No Shadow by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
The Boy Who Cast No Shadow
by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
Invisibility is one of the best superpowers, in my opinion, though it also requires a little wiggle room to be truly often. For instance, invisibility where you have to get naked to work the power can be … awkward. Similarly, I wouldn’t want to be invisible permanently, or invisible to myself! That would also lead to no end of problems. In Look’s case, he isn’t invisible per se (except on camera, for some reason that I don’t really understand). But he is the eponymous “Boy Who Cast No Shadow”, a global phenomenon, and this causes no end of problems for him.
I’d love to like this story. It’s heartfelt and generally intriguing. Olde Heuvelt creates two intriguing characters, each with their own particular unique problem, who somehow manage to lose themselves in each other. I sympathized with Look and with Splinter, lamented their inevitably tragic ending. Unfortunately, “The Boy Who Cast No Shadow” also has a few bumps and rough edges that require some critique.
Let’s take it as a given that Look indeed casts no shadow and that Splinter is somehow, impossibly, a living boy made of glass. This is science fiction (or fantasy), and your story doesn’t have to be believable, just consistent. So I’m confused why people can see Look in person but not on camera. He isn’t visible on X-ray machines either (the rays “fall through him”), implying that he does not reflect X-rays. Fair enough. But cameras record the reflection of visible light. If he were transparent to the light the camera picks up, he should be transparent to everyone else as well, even if they are looking right at him.
Olde Heuvelt also glosses over much of Look and Splinter’s relative celebrities. At the beginning of the story, Look goes on about how he has been on Oprah, how the United States government has kidnapped him and experimented him, etc. Now he’s attending an ordinary school like an ordinary boy. Splinter doesn’t seem to have that level of celebrity (glass runs in his family), but I’m surprised that, considering his fragility, he’s allowed to attend a mainstream school at all. Obviously he needs to in order to meet Look and have these adventures, but that makes the situation a little more contrived than it should have to be.
If you can work past these nitpicks, then “The Boy Who Cast No Shadow” is moving, a modern day tragedy about dealing with difference. Olde Heuvelt uses the form to his advantage, and I can see why this has garnered a nomination. It’s not quite my cup of tea though.