Review: Rush by Eve Silver

Review: Rush by Eve SilverRush by Eve Silver
Series: The Game #1
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on June 11th 2013
Pages: 361
Genres: Science Fiction YA, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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So what’s the game now? This, or the life I used to know?

When Miki Jones is pulled from her life, pulled through time and space into some kind of game—her carefully controlled life spirals into chaos. In the game, she and a team of other teens are sent on missions to eliminate the Drau, terrifying and beautiful alien creatures. There are no practice runs, no training, and no way out. Miki has only the guidance of secretive but maddeningly attractive team leader Jackson Tate, who says the game isn’t really a game, that what Miki and her new teammates do now determines their survival, and the survival of every other person on this planet. She laughs. He doesn’t. And then the game takes a deadly and terrifying turn.

Thoughts: Rush is a tough book to review. It had potential and I certainly want to read the next book in the series – unlike, say, Breathe by Sarah Crossan or Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, which were mediocre reads I will never revisit. However, Rush also had some serious problems.

Let’s start off with the good.  For starters, it was the first Sci-Fi YA novel I have EVER finished. I just don’t think YA Sci-Fi has been all that good… and, at its very worst, Rush was readable science fiction.

Its premise reminded me of the Animorphs books: teenagers fighting off aliens in a secret war to save the planet. The modern twist to Rush was the incorporation of a gaming universe – one that existed but certainly wasn’t prevalent when the Animorphs books came out. I did rather like this concept. It dehumanised their fight, making it entertainment of a sort.

So, I liked the concept. The execution, on the other hand, was far from perfect.

For an action novel, Rush featured an awful lot of chatter. The main character, Miki, was constantly asking questions… which I applaud as a human being but loathe as a reader. It was such an obvious narrative tool and it felt extremely forced. As part of this, Silver made the other characters (no, actually, only Love Interest #1, Jackson) give purposefully cagey responses. There was no reason for Jackson to avoid Miki’s questions (he sure as hell didn’t towards the end of the book) other than to keep the “suspense” up. I wanted to scream through the pages, “Don’t ask him now! He won’t answer your simple question until the penultimate chapter!”

Rush’s “romantic” element was also rather tiresome. For starters, a romantic triangle is established right from the first chapter. Although Love Interest #2 doesn’t get much screen time in this instalment, I have no doubt that he’ll be in play in the next book. The pairing we do get page after page of details on was… rather blah. There was no chemistry, just a case of insta-love. God, kill me now. If I have to read about one more girl falling for a mysterious guy in sunglasses, I may just gauge my eyes out.

*sighs*

If you can’t tell: Rush was a frustrating read. It was as if Eve Silver felt “forced” to include a central romantic pairing, when she might have usually let them play out their relationship over a few books. She also could have easily cut Rush in half if she’d only let the key characters divulge more information earlier on. Very, very frustrating.

I am interested, however, in seeing how this universe evolves. As I mentioned, the concept is an interesting one that hits all of my Animorphs-nostalgia buttons and the writing is certainly readable. I will probably be picking up Push when it comes out next year.

Bottom line? Rush is the best YA Science Fiction I’ve read (though that isn’t saying all that much).

Note on the rating: While reading Rush, it felt like a 3.5 star-verging-on-4-star book. But the last few chapters dragged it down to 3 stars. Not bad, but not overwhelmingly great.

Review: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Review: Scarlet by Marissa MeyerScarlet by Marissa Meyer
Series: Lunar Chronicles #2
Published by Feiwel & Friends, Puffin on February 7th 2013
Pages: 452
Genres: Fairytale Re-tellings, Science Fiction YA, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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Also in this series: Cinder, Cress

The fates of Cinder and Scarlet collide as a Lunar threat spreads across the Earth...

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She's trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she'll be the Commonwealth's most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn't know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother's whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her.

[Note: I've edited this summary, as the official version has spoilers for the end of the book! #Fail]

Thoughts: It is an absolute TRAGEDY that I am only now writing this review. Tragedy, I say, because Scarlet is everything I’ve ever wanted in a YA novel and you’ve all had months not knowing that. Fortunately, you can go out now and get it. Right now. Go on. I can wait.

Got it? Good. Now we can talk.

You see, I normally have serious issues with the Red Riding Hood retellings. Despite liking Cinder, I had been apprehensive about how the story would play out in Scarlet. But, without spoiling the novel for you, let me just say this: Meyer’s portrayal of Wolf and his pack makes me want to send her gold stars. No really, actual gold stars. If anyone has her address, I’ll send them now. It was genius.

The strength of this book is in its characters: Scarlet‘s heroine is independent but extremely loyal to her family. She’s tough and worldly, but not so hardened by life as to stop loving. She reminds me of Mercy Thompson from Patricia Briggs’ novels – which is quite the compliment, I assure you. As for the Wolf in the tale: he has the right mix of violent-and-distrust-worthy and worthy-of-redemption. So many authors strive to write bad boys and just end up pissing me off. Marissa Meyer, I am happy to report, is not one of those authors. Wolf is a victim in this tale; albeit a victim that can rip your throat out.

Scarlet follows directly on from Cinder and, because of that, it follows more than one POV. This can at times mean serious confusion and reader fatigue… but not in this case. The action was easy to follow and the transitions between narrator only heightened the tension. The only critique I have is that, well, I don’t particularly like Cinder as a character and so wasn’t too interested in what she had to say. Her chapters unfortunately dragged my rating of this book from 5 to 4.5 stars.

Besides my dislike of Cinder’s character, one of my biggest peeves from Cinder was the predictability of the plot – something I am happy to report Scarlet has none of. While I could certainly tell that none of the characters were quite who they said they were, I didn’t know what to expect. Scarlet‘s plot twists and turns had all the oomph I love. There were leaps from moving trains, fights in empty theatres and kidnappings galore – but, best of all, I didn’t see any of them coming.

My goodreads updates for your amusement:

My Goodreads Progress for Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Bottom line: Scarlet is a brilliant, brilliant book. Even if you weren’t impressed by Cinder, you’ll love it.

 

Review: Quantum Drop by Saci Lloyd

Review: Quantum Drop by Saci LloydQuantum Drop by Saci Lloyd
Published by Hodder Children's Books
Pages: 276
Genres: Science Fiction YA, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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Anthony Griffin is an ordinary kid caught up in a dangerous world. The boundaries between real and virtual are more and more blurred, and when Anthony’s girlfriend is taken out in a gang hit, he has to venture into the underground world of the Drop to flush out her killer and bring him to justice.

Thoughts: Let me just start off that Quantum Drop was exactly what I want in a YA novel. Saci Lloyd doesn’t shy away from real-life issues, she doesn’t consider the status quo sacred, and she sure as hell isn’t afraid of calling out our species for, well, sucking. I love that, because she’s so right, but no one ever seems to want to say it. The fact that she not only does, but puts it into a kick-ass book? Brilliant.

But, I have to admit that Quantum Drop is probably not the book for everyone. If you aren’t in the mood for a book that needs your brain to be “on” the whole time (which I totally get, by the way), then wait for a while before you pick up Quantum Drop. Otherwise you just won’t enjoy it as much.

Now, apart from Saci Lloyd’s oh-so-accurate insights into humanity, I also really enjoyed the setting of Quantum Drop. Anyone who has been round the East End will recognize the familiar-yet-futuristic “Debtbelt”. Saci Lloyd has kept the verse just post-modern enough to be recognizable – so much so, I barely felt the sci-element of the book. That said, the characters spend a huge part of the novel in a virtual world known as “the drop” (which, if I had to describe it, I’d liken to The Matrix). Super futuristic stuff that, for some reason, felt totally normal.

The characters in Quantum Drop were complete stand-outs. They aren’t the middle-class, worried-about-prom lot that we typically see in YA – instead, they have grown up with the odds stacked against them, and they know it. They are swimming against the tide, trying to do what is right while staying afloat. The main character, Anthony, wants justice for his girlfriend, but he also has a legitimate fear for his life and the life of his family. It’s easy to just give up – so when many of the characters do, it’s also easy to forgive them. This made Anthony’s struggles all the more impressive.

Bottom line? Quantum Drop is one of those books that makes you think (about life, the universe and everything) while telling a hell of a tale along the way. Pick it up if you are looking for something different in your YA.

Review: Breathe by Sarah Crossan

Review: Breathe by Sarah CrossanBreathe by Sarah Crossan
Series: Breathe #1
Published by Bloomsbury, Greenwillow
Pages: 384
Genres: Science Fiction YA, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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When oxygen levels plunge in a treeless world, a state lottery decides which lucky few will live inside the Pod. Everyone else will slowly suffocate. Years after the Switch, life inside the Pod has moved on. A poor Auxiliary class cannot afford the oxygen tax which supplies extra air for running, dancing and sports. The rich Premiums, by contrast, are healthy and strong. Anyone who opposes the regime is labelled a terrorist and ejected from the Pod to die. Sixteen-year-old Alina is part of the secret resistance, but when a mission goes wrong she is forced to escape from the Pod. With only two days of oxygen in her tank, she too faces the terrifying prospect of death by suffocation. Her only hope is to find the mythical Grove, a small enclave of trees protected by a hardcore band of rebels. Does it even exist, and if so, what or who are they protecting the trees from? A dystopian thriller about courage and freedom, with a love story at its heart.

Ahead: BAD SCIENCE, characters who go off the rails and a good premise.

Thoughts: I really wanted to love Breathe. Really, I did. It had an extraordinary premise with an environmental message I fully approve of. I mean, how many YA books deal with deforestation and mass climate change?

The first half of Breathe was really rather good. Sarah Crossan bounced back and forth  between three well-developed characters – all teens, but all radically different. There’s the cold resistance member who seems horrid, but is really just trying to stay alive. The scholarship girl who is brilliant but will never get anywhere because of her birth. And the rich-but-mostly-kindhearted boy who doesn’t stand up to the system, but doesn’t lie down in front of it either. Three kids who are pretty much on their own, and who all learn to fight the status quo in their own way.

As I said, pretty good stuff – and while I wasn’t over the moon about the characters, I could see myself starting to connect with them. But then, about half way through the book, things started going downhill. The chapters started getting shorter, yet covered twice as much action. Characters were introduced who were supposed to be leaders but were genuinely psychotic – but no one dealt with or acknowledged this. And badda-bang instalove! I was kinda shocked.

But it was about to get worse… bring in the bad science.

OK, I understand that most people are not scientists – but there were mistakes in this book that were the equivalent of writing, “the island of France” or “Earth’s second moon”. Things so blindly obvious, someone should have noticed them. I don’t necessarily think Sarah Crossan should have been responsible for spotting her scientific faux-pas, but someone. Anyone.

*Minor Spoilers*

For those of you who are doubting me, here’s an example. Breathe describes a world where, as the oxygen levels decrease, people start dropping like flies. Suddenly, graveyards are full, mass burial sites aren’t enough, so… people start burning the bodies.

*head desk* You cannot burn people in a low oxygen environment!! Flames need oxygen!! Human bodies are not super combustible! It’s basic chemistry that we worked out in the stone age.

I told two people this specific example, and both of them spotted the mistake immediately. Why didn’t an editor? I can only pray that that line did get cut from the final version… but doubt it.

*Even More Spoilery*

Another thing that made no scientific sense whatsoever was the rebel’s miraculous ability to breathe in a low oxygen atmosphere. It’s true that people who live in high-altitude areas develop higher red blood cell counts and can cope in less oxygenated atmospheres… but not the 6% oxygen levels of Breathe. This becomes even more unbelievable when you find out that all the rebels had to do to breathe like this was practice and throw in a few meditation sessions.

What’s sad is that science in Breathe didn’t need to be bad science. If a one-line explanation had been tossed in saying that humanity had evolved genetically to require less oxygen, I could have bought this. It’s science fiction, for goodness sakes! That Breathe masquerades as a scientifically sound novel is rather… off-putting.

*END Spoilers*

So, after all that, am I going to read the sequel Resist? Maybe. I know that Sarah Crossan is capable of writing a good book – there’s half of one right here in Breathe.

Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Review: Cinder by Marissa MeyerCinder by Marissa Meyer
Series: Lunar Chronicles #1
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Pages: 400
Genres: Fairytale Re-tellings, Science Fiction YA, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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Also in this series: Scarlet, Cress

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

Things I liked about Cinder:
  • It was only loosely based on Cinderella. Cinder wasn’t a “sit back and wait for my fairy godmother” character and actively rebelled against her family.
  • The universe had fantastic potential. It was very futuristic – complete with cyborgs, flying vehicles, and aliens on the moon – and yet it also seemed quite historic – with a royal family, a hideous plague, and terrible human rights.
  • Prince Kai. I have never been one to swoon over a prince, but this prince? He was everything you could possibly want from a monarch: reluctant to rule but feels obligated to do the best job he can, genuinely cares about his subjects, and has no real prejudices towards people of lower classes. I wholeheartedly approve.

Things that made me roll my eyes:

  • The big “mystery”. Mystery… hah! Within about 10 pages I had worked out the book’s big secret – so I spent the rest of the book hoping that someone would wise up and just say it out loud before I killed them all for their stupidity. Unfortunately, is wasn’t revealed until the end of the book – and revealed with dramatic flair it did not deserve.
  • Cinder. While she did have quite a bit of gumption, I found her self-loathing for her cyborg nature to be extremely tiresome. I wanted to just slap her and say “I get it, you’ve had a hard knock life, but just accept the fact that you don’t deserve it and DO something about it!” In a way, it was rather like a slave believing that they are property… something I cannot possibly accept in a protagonist, although I am sure it is possible in real life.
  • The lunar queen. If one-dimensional were a country, she would be its queen. And, hell, I think she’d enjoy it. Queen Levana was a simple “Big Bad” and absolutely nothing else. Instead of finding her scary, I found her rather cartoonish.
  • And, again, the “mystery”. Seriously, this really bugged me. I mean, I get that this book was aimed at teenagers but it wasn’t aimed at oblivious idiots. I mean, c’mon…

In short, Cinder is good. Quite good indeed. But it isn’t the miraculous novel that some reviews have made it out to be. It has significant flaws and is clearly a debut novel. I just hope that Meyer does a better job with the sequel…

Bottom line? Cinder is an enjoyable sci-fi novel with a well-incorporated fairy-tale at its heart. But is it the best thing since sliced bread? No, it is not.

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