Small Beer Podcast 15: Lydia Millet’s The Shimmers in the Night

The Shimmers in The Night cover - click to view full size

These podcasts are special little moments that pop up in my life, but even when I’m not “on mic” I’m reading to an audience. Every day for almost a decade, I’ve sat with my children and read. Yes, we have a TV. Yes, we have broadband access. But every day we sit together and read novels: novels for kids. That adds up to quite a lot of books.

We read the first book in Lydia Millet’s Dissenters series, The Fires Beneath the Sea, last year, and its sequel, The Shimmers in the Night, earlier this fall. In between, we’ve read quite a number of other books, some of which are just amazing and some of which only part of my tribe actually enjoyed. Hint: it was not the reader. Parenthood has its trials . . .

The Shimmers in the Night was a blast for both reader and audience. Not only that: months later my younger child still asks if the next “Shimmers” book is “ready yet,” while my older child made me solemnly swear to get this particular podcast online “immediately.”

What makes this podcast extra-special is that Lydia Millet herself is the reader. With the help of a friend, she read and recorded Chapter 1. How fricking cool is that?

I hate to listen to recordings of myself if others are nearby, but I know I’ll be listening to this particular edition with two smaller people by my side.

Episode 15: In which Lydia Millet reads chapter 1 of The Shimmers in the Night.

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The Shimmers in The Night

by Lydia Millet

September 2012 | 256pp · 978-1-931520-78-2 · trade cloth · $16.95 | 978-1-931520-79-9 · ebook · $9.95

This might be the worst weekend of Cara’s life. Her mother is still missing and her brother Jax is off at “smart kid boot camp” in Boston. When he texts Cara asking to be rescued, she and her two best friends, Hayley and Jaye, go into action. The so-called boot camp is actually a front for Cara’s mother’s organization, which is fighting a force which brooks no dissent against its wish to make the planet over in its own image—to “clean it up,” leaving no space for anything else, animal, insect, or human.

And human doesn’t really mean what everyone thinks it does. . . .

The three girls have to escape a new elemental threat, “Burners,” and learn about the enemy’s horrifying plan to “hollow out” people and use them as weapons.

Tension ratchets up as Cara and her friends learn more about the threat their mother is fighting, about how unusual Cara’s mother really is, about how some of the people they’ve known all their lives might be their enemies, about what it means to be human, and most strange and wonderful of all, about the mysterious band of rebels they have suddenly joined.

The Shimmers in the Night is the second thrilling novel in the Dissenters series following The Fires Beneath the Sea.

Lydia Millet on “Where I Write
Lydia Millet interviewed by William Blake on The Nervous Breakdown.

“It is the week before Halloween and Cara’s younger brother, Jax, is off to Cambridge for a two-week stint at a “genius-kid” camp. He has special abilities that allow him to read minds (or in other words, “ping” them). Cara is busy herself, leaving to go out of town for a competitive swim meet with her friends. She is there when Jax texts her for help, “SCARED TELL NO 1 PLZ COME!” She finds a way to secretly leave, going unnoticed by her coach and Mrs. M. Cara soon enters a world of men with fire in their mouth; people with angel wings; and a brother that has been hollowed to be used as a weapon. Fortunately, Cara recruits her friends and they all work together in fighting the dark forces. This second book in this new fantasy series will not disappoint. Characters are given enough dimension that the fantasy elements are believable. Readers will identify with Cara’s strong ties to her family and friends, who find out that people they might have known for most of their lives are closer to being their enemies. Readers will want to leave the lights on well after finishing this book as the detail depicted will create similarities in your mind to Clive Barker’s Abarat books. Readers will likely want Cara on their team as they jump, like Alice down the rabbit hole, through the guide book that turns into a window through another world.”

“The seemingly three-tiered conflict that emerged in The Fires Beneath the Sea (2011) coalesces into a single war. . . . Cara and her brothers (though not their oblivious dad) know their mom’s involved in a confrontation that connects murderous mythical creatures with global warming. Cara leaves Cape Cod for a Boston swim meet, but a frightened text from Jax (a classic genius-younger-brother archetype–think Charles Wallace from A Wrinkle in Time) says he’s endangered at his Cambridge genius-kid camp. She sneaks off to fetch him, and a man with flames inside his mouth accosts her on the subway. He’s a Burner, an elemental who belongs to the army of the Cold. The Cold steals people’s consciousnesses (including Jax’s) and uses their bodies as “hollows” to serve his Carbon War, which is acidifying oceans and extinguishing species. . . . Nicely serious eco-fantasy. . . .”
Kirkus Reviews

Upcoming Appearances

Lydia Millet is the author of many novels, including My Happy Life (PEN-USA Award winner), Oh Pure and Radiant Heart (shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award), and Ghost Lights. Her short story collection Love in Infant Monkeys was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. She works at an endangered-species protection group and has just been named a Guggenheim fellow. The Shimmers in the Night is the second book in the Dissenters series. The first book, The Fires Beneath the Sea has just come out in paperback.

Cover by Sharon McGill.
Author photo by Ivory Orchid Photography.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Millet, Lydia, 1968-
The shimmers in the night : a novel / Lydia Millet. — 1st ed.
p. cm.
Summary: “Cara’s mother is still missing. When her brother Jax texts her from “smart kid’s boot camp” in Boston, Cara and her two best friends go to the rescue. But the camp is a front for Cara’s mother’s organization who are fighting against a force who wants to make the planet over in its own image, which will leave no space for anything else, animal, insect, or human”– Provided by publisher.
ISBN 978-1-931520-78-2 (hardback) — ISBN 978-1-931520-79-9 (ebook)
[1. Supernatural–Fiction. 2. Brothers and sisters–Fiction. 3. Psychic ability–Fiction. 4. Missing persons–Fiction. 5. Family life–Massachusetts–Fiction. 6. Cape Cod (Mass.)–Fiction.]  I. Title.
PZ7.M5998Shi 2012

The Fires Beneath the Sea

by Lydia Millet

July 2011 · 256 pp · hardcover (out of print) · 9781931520713 | ebook · 9781931520416
April 2012 · 280 pp · trade paperback · 9781931520478
— Includes a sneak preview of the second book in the Dissenters series, The Shimmers in the Night

Start reading now on Wattpad.

A Junior Library Guild Pick
Kirkus Reviews
Best of 2011
Selected for the ABC Best Books for Children Catalog
Locus Notable Books
Turkish rights sold to Ithaki.

Cara’s mother has disappeared. Her father isn’t talking about it. Her big brother Max is hiding behind his iPod, and her genius little brother Jackson is busy studying the creatures he collects from the beach. But when a watery specter begins to haunt the family’s Cape Cod home, Cara and her brothers realize that their scientist mother may not be who they thought she was—and that the world has much stranger, much older inhabitants than they had imagined.

With help from Cara’s best friend Hayley, the three embark on a quest that will lead them from the Cape’s hidden, ancient places to a shipwreck at the bottom of the sea. They’re soon on the front lines of an ancient battle between good and evil, with the terrifying “pouring man” close on their heels.

Packed with memorable characters and thrilling imagery, Lydia Millet weaves a page-turning adventure even as she brings the seaside world of Cape Cod to magical life. The first in a series of books about the Sykes children, The Fires Beneath the Sea is a rip-cracking middle-grade novel that will make perfect beach reading—for readers of any age!

* “Millet’s prose is lyrically evocative (“the rhythmic scoop and splash of their paddles”). A lush and intelligent opener for a topical eco-fantasy series.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review) Read more