Noreen Mitchell is a librarian with the Toronto Public Library.
This sequel to The Fusion Factor chronicles 12-year-old Rebecca’s second experience of travelling into the future with a time machine. As with the earlier work, the story is intended to awaken young people to the bleak destiny that is theirs if they do not make efforts to check certain alarming social trends in the present. Here, in contrast to nuclear war, corporate concentration of power and gross consumerism are the roots of this alternate future’s evil.
The future to which Rebecca is accidentally transported is quite seductive at first with its great beauty and breadth of material goods. Behind such superficial lushness, however, is a hideous system under the control of the supreme corporation named Zanu which punishes harshly those individuals who do not conform to the frantic cycle of selling and buying. When Zanu police determine that she cannot return to the past without altering the future, Rebecca is forced to flee with her new friend, Tara, to the polluted wasteland that lies beyond the force field which contains Winnipeg. There, the two girls discover a group of outcasts “cut loose” and left to die by Zanu. They devise a plan to steal enough food and supplies from a Zanu compound to establish a survival camp and resistance base in northern Manitoba where the environment is still relatively intact. Even though the resistors are optimistic about their own efforts, they agree with Rebecca that her return to the past might be enough to change their present. Aided by the Winnipeg underground, Rebecca finally makes her way back home with the time machine.
Like Fusion Factor, Zanu is intended to stimulate contemplation and discussion of current social issues in young adult readers. At times, the sequel is as shallowly written as the first work with characters serving primarily as mouthpieces warning of the dangers of big business, consumerism, the arms race, acid rain, and the greenhouse effect. With Zanu, though, the moral overtones are less intrusive so that the second book is more readable and enjoyable than the first. Also, the character of Rebecca is more firmly drawn and her positive attributes are more genuine than heroic. Despite the kind of worst-case scenario that is depicted, there is room for optimism based on the collective activism of the resistance movement and the independent initiative of individuals like Rebecca.