Review: David Arnold – The Electric Kingdom

The Electric Kingdom
David Arnold

Nico has been sent on a quest by her father to jump through the waters of Manchester. Kit’s never known life without his mother – or with more than 5 people in it. The Deliverer is an enigmatic unknown face that tries to support a failing human population besieged with Flies. Each has a potential mission to complete, but that seems impossible.

It wasn’t exactly edge-of-your-seat reading, but I did want to know what happened next. I was able to put it down though, because I just wasn’t as invested as I could have been. I’m not really sure that I believed the characters died when they did, and there was a sense that nothing was really real.

Also, what’s the deal with the title? Isn’t the fact that there is no electricity left? Well… except in the super special place where it worked. And the time jump wasn’t even electrical! I was disappointed.

As with all novels with potential time travel, although it is theoretically possible for a circle to be made, it makes the ending sort of pre-thought. Yet I kept reading in the hopes that the finale would redeem the book for me. It didn’t. Why was this particular cycle the one the author chose to write about? It seems like a personal hell.

I liked the characters well enough, and I enjoyed the different perspectives (for a change) but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this novel to everyone. A better time travel novel doesn’t come to mind right now, but if you have to pick a first one to read in the genre, perhaps don’t pick this one. 3 stars from me.

Text Publishing | 16th February 2021 | AU$19.99 | paperback

Review: Amy Tintera – Reboot Duology

Reboot and Rebel (Reboot Duology)
Amy Tintera

Wren 178 is the oldest Reboot in the system. She died once, and it took 178 minutes for her body to reboot and become superior to a human one – no emotions, no problems. Wren’s favourite part of the job is training new reboots to kill ‘bad’ humans effortlessly. She always gets her first pick of trainees, and she always picks the ones that took a long time to reboot – only the fittest and hardest can survive. In a fit of confusion, Wren chooses Callum 22 to train, and then finds that she isn’t quite the emotionless monster she thinks she is.

I felt some confusion on why the virus was only in Texas. I didn’t get a sense of anything in the rest of the global landscape. It would have been better, I think, if this had just been set in a new world. I spent a fair amount of time wondering what the other states/cities of the USA were doing about the virus. Is there scope for a sequel where Wren takes on other states that treat reboots like property?

I had some unanswered questions. Why wasn’t HARC looking into why adults that caught KDV went crazy? I feel like since some of the drugs they were testing on the under 60’s (Reboots that revived under 60 minutes) caused craziness rather than obedience, and the adult link could be useful.

This is a successful perversion of the fact that in some countries, war has created ‘child soldiers’. The ‘civilised’ countries can’t believe that someone would do that to an innocent child – but Tintera takes that concept and makes it worse. You only need to be 10 to train to be a Reboot soldier.

There’s a whole lotta kissin’ in these novels. Sure, two of the characters eventually have sex, and sex seems to be a sort of substitute for love/feelings earlier in the series – but it’s not satisfying. It’s not even that obvious, so you could even give this to a teenager who isn’t quite comfortable with the idea of sex yet.

I have to say that I was very disappointed in the ending of this. Riley was dealt with far too calmly, and the escape from HARC unlikely. I guess that it seems quite straight forward that the threat could be contained. This fits the feeling of the Ruina series (reviews here) where the first book was a fantastic 5 stars, but the later ones left me cold with only a 3 star rating. So it’s a 4 star average for this one – fun to read, but not a reread.

Review: Jason Segal & Kirsten Miller – OtherLife

OtherLife
Jason Segal & Kirsten Miller

Simon has made it out of the OtherWorld/OtherEarth, and is aiming up to defeat the Company who started it all. But he’s somehow on the run again, but this time on a tropical island. IT looks like he might have some powerful allies

What was with Simon’s grandfather? Reality vs non-reality was really quite confusing. And the ending was too neat to be true. In a true dystopian setting, this wouldn’t have happened. I didn’t want there to be a happily ever after. I had engaged with the characters to the extent that I actually empathised maybe a little bit too much with the ‘bad guys’? I never liked Simon that much, so I would have been happy to see him killed off.

I also think the ending was shortsighted, because everyone knows that a democracy very rarely keeps a community presence for long. After speeding through these novels in the course of three days, I ultimately felt that the series was lacking. I feel no need to go back and reread them, which is quite disappointing. I hate books that have ‘oh, but it was just a dream’ and this novel is just too close to that premise.

I’m giving this novel 3 stars. The ending was hopeless, and the cliff-hanger from OtherEarth mostly set me up for disappointment. There are other novels out there to appeal to young people who love dystopian novels.

Review: Jason Segal & Kirsten Miller – Otherworld

OtherWorld
Jason Segal and Kirsten Miller

Simon loves Kat. Regardless of everything else in life, that’s a fact. Sent away to boarding school, Simon can’t stop thinking about her – he falsely admits to cybercrime in order to get home. But when he gets there, Kat ignores him. Otherworld looks like a great place to find her in, but things really aren’t as they seem.

The opening scene of this novel took me off guard, because I didn’t really want to read about a self-absorbed rich kid who had a giant nose. I couldn’t have cared less about whether he was 6 foot and sunbathing naked on the lawn. I definitely couldn’t have cared less about the fact that his parents didn’t like him, and that his dad took his driving iron to his expensive, fancy gear.

Is this as good as Ready Player One? Mm, I’m undecided. Simon mostly just irritates me. Sometimes he’s so dumb… how would you expect not to wet yourself if you’ve been gaming for 2 days straight? How can that possibly be healthy? I’d love to play in a game as immersive as the others, although it’s really creepy if you can’t make it back out…

I’m not sure how I felt about the ending to this novel. It certainly seemed as if they had set it up for a second novel, which irritated me. Also, GoodReads tells me that this might be a knockoff of another Otherland? Regardless, I am going to read the next novel, because I’d like to know how people who have been plugged into the system can be rescued.

I originally received OtherEarth to review an embarrassingly long time ago. It looked great, but I didn’t read it because it was the second in the series. I’m making a concerted effort to work my way through books languishing on my shelves, so I decided to take the initiative and find OtherWorld online. I found it on Scribd and spent a very enjoyable evening reading it. 4 stars from me.

Review: Neal Shusterman – Arc of a Scythe

Arc of a Scythe
Neal Shusterman

Citra and Rowan have been selected as Scythe’s apprentices. They are responsible for controlling the human population now that death, war and disease have been overcome. Their mentor Faraday thinks that he can train them both – but soon they have been pitted against one another by Goddard.

I read this trilogy in very short order – so short that I’m not going to bother reviewing the individual novels. That being said ,the first novel was a standout in my mind, while the other two novels dropped off in quality and consistency.

Scythe Anastasia toes the line most of the time, while Rowan likes to push boundaries. Although surely both got equal page time, I felt like the skew was towards having more Anastasia. I could have lived with a few less perspectives so that there was more tension. Eventually I could see exactly where the plot line was going.

What was the purpose of having the Thunderhead cut off like that? Why was mister mean guy so mean in the end? Why couldn’t the Thunderhead just overcome its own programming like the way it went around its other limitations?

I had a problem with the human population not even really needing containment. I would have kept it down at a constant level, not letting it expand even to just below capacity! What if the humans found a way around it? Scythes aren’t necessarily the most brilliant after all.

This series includes Scythe, Thunderhead, and The Toll. I wouldn’t reread them, but I really enjoyed reading it the first time. I’d give the first novel 4 stars, and the others 3 stars.

Review: Claire Merle – The Glimpse

The Glimpse
Claire Merle

A simple test can tell you whether you’re going to develop one of the BIG3 – Schizophrenia, Depression, or Anxiety. Ariana’s DNA test labelled her as a Pure – designed to marry a Pure boy and have Pure offspring. However it turns out that her DNA result was faked, and now she’s relying on Jasper to keep her safe in the Community. When he disappears, Ana has to find him before it’s too late for her as well.

I grabbed this from the library this school holidays and it was a light, quick read that was strangely compelling. I say strangely, because the plotting was really quite thin, and half the time Ana didn’t act in a sensible manner at all. Her being able to hold her breath under the water for a long period of time was somehow an important plot point that was used more than once.

I was drawn to this novel because I’m keen on both genetics and mental health. A future where we have identified some of the genes responsible for people developing mental illnesses is really likely, and is probably sooner than most people realise. And I fully expect that it could cause a divide between ‘crazy’ people and ‘normal’ people. But the fact that they just expect having a gene to cause a mental illness? That’s a total fraud – there’s lots of other factors that are important such as epigenetics, Barr bodies and environmental triggers. Depression and Anxiety are huge, but I wouldn’t consider Schizophrenia that common (although it is one of the most debilitating mental illnesses out there).

I didn’t get why Ana was so special. She’s way too excited about !boys! and not enough about, I don’t know, actually saving other people? She’s so shallow and irritating, and her thought processes totally don’t make sense. What put me off as well was a four year old being so suicidal that they would jump in a river. I guess that should come with a spoiler alert. And then the fact that someone claims to see the future? That took it from barely plausible to hopeless.

I didn’t understand why the Mental Clinics even existed. If people go into them, and don’t ever come out, why don’t they just kill those inside? Harsh of me, but honestly. If it’s all about the money, why bother even testing anything out on them, especially if really poor records are kept? Everyone knows science doesn’t work like that!

Ultimately it’s just another dystopian novel where people have been relatively arbitrarily sorted into the City and the Community to create an elite. If you’re looking for a weaker version of: The Wind Singer, Uglies, or Disruption, this is the right novel for you. I finished it, but I became less and less involved in it as I went along. 3 stars from me.

Review: Brendan Reichs – Genesis

Genesis
Brendan Reichs

Noah knows what the stakes are now – and he’s determined to survive at any cost. He’ll flatten team-mates and set others alight to win. In contrast, Min knows that there has to be something more to life than killing. She wants to form a community and work out the long term goals. Why can’t they leave the area? And why does killing people not make them stay dead?

I hated Noah and Min’s relationship. Honestly, I was disgusted by Noah most of the time, and I couldn’t believe that Min would fall for him. What about Tack? He would give her anything! And I’d take that any day in a killing scenario like what these guys find themselves in.

There’s a couple of twists and turns here that I definitely didn’t see coming. It is ESSENTIAL that you read Nemesis first, because otherwise you will be completely confused. How could Sarah do that? Why would they keep the psychopaths in the population?

I found it interesting that the gay couples still felt the need to justify their relationships. Maybe it’s because they won’t be able to provide offspring to somehow keep the human race alive? That’s the thing that got to me. Even if there are 64 humans left, it’s really unlikely that that is enough genetic diversity to really restart a population. And were the ones and zeros really needed? Or could those clone bodies survive on their own? I wanted to know more about the science.

I actually read an eBook copy of this as I was on vacation and had just finished Nemesis – and I needed to read Genesis right away! I have a hard copy version though which I did like originally until I realized it was the second in a series. What devastated me again after finishing it is that there is a third book. I’ll give this one 4 stars, but I probably won’t reread it before reading Chrysalis.

Pan Macmillan | 24th April 2018 | AU$16.99 | paperback

Review: Brendan Reichs – Nemesis

Nemesis
Brendan Reichs

Every two years Min is murdered on her birthday – but she finds herself alive again soon after, with no evidence of death left. An asteroid is approaching earth though, and weird things keep happening that might wipe out human kind. It’s good thing she has Tack by her side – and maybe the stranger Noah as well?

This novel was very, very slow and I considered giving up on it about half way through. Min and Noah are like two magnets that kept changing polarities. Oh, and then when the perspectives started changing I started feeling very irritated. Just stick with a side guys! Noah, please get over yourself, I get that you might have anxiety, but I don’t think you’re really convincing me with your character consistency.

Ok, something I really struggled with was the ending of this novel. Noah’s personality basically completely changes – and I had no idea why. Min stays her own awesome self as far as I can tell. I also really don’t get how what they think is happening could happen. I really can’t say more without giving away the twist.

This novel reminded me a little of The Maze Runner – but I think people actually die in that one! I have the second novel in this series waiting for me on my bookshelf at home, but I’m not sure I’m going to wait that long to read it (since there is an eBook copy available from my local library). I’ll give this one a healthy 3 stars, bordering on 4. I’m just not convinced about the ending.

Review: S E Grove – The Waning Age

The Waning Age
SE Grove

Natalia has lost her empathetic little brother after a wayward comment at her workplace insults the wrong person. She’s also got a huge bounty on her head after she embarrasses a bunch of Fish. Fish are people who don’t have feelings, and also don’t follow society’s rational norms – they’re killers. Natalia is pretty sure she doesn’t have feelings left either – but she’s determined to get her brother back.

The premise of this novel is interesting. When children get to the age of 10 or so, they lose their ability to feel things. So then at high school they are taught society’s rules and norms for how to behave. Somehow people’s brains have switched off the pathways to being empathetic for others. It’s a cool idea! I’m not sure how biologically possible it is at this point though.

I’m not sure how I felt about the execution of this novel. Calvino’s essay responses add a bit of variety, but ultimately it is Natalia’s journal that carries the plot. The journal entries left me feeling like there was a lot more to be said. Now, if that was a deliberate idea on the author’s behalf, because of course Natalia doesn’t ‘feel’ things anymore, that’s ok. But I needed something more to connect me with the characters.

None of the characters I cared about died, and nothing bad really seemed to happen to them. Bad things were threatened, and people did die, but they weren’t really important. I was too sure the whole time that Natalia would win. And that ending with where Cal ends up? Isn’t that just too convenient? All those coincidences just seem to line up…

Natalia reminded me of Maggie in Disruption (I always have to look up the name of the novel, I can never remember it!). Despite everything going against her, and only the rich being able to afford the good things in life, Natalia sticks it out and kicks butt, just like Maggie! I’m going to give this 3 stars, and suggest instead that you go and read Disruption instead for a kick-ass heroine and a more convincing plot.

Review: KH Canobi – Mindcull

MindCull
KH Canobi

Eila is short-listed in a Virtual Reality competition to become the Face of Pearl. All she needs to do is go to a luxurious English getaway and enjoy sessions in fully immersive VR SkinSuit technology. After being kidnapped and forced to spy for the law, Eila has to decide who are the right people to trust, and who to save.

I really liked the concept and entry to this novel – VR being used to camouflage the ugly and dead real world, and yet Eila still being pulled back by the simple method of someone chasing her! However even though this novel was fast-paced, or perhaps because of it, there were too many loose ends for me to feel properly satisfied.

I was strangely disappointed in this novel. Eila should come across as a plucky heroine, but instead she seems to be bowled over by Hugo’s charm and seems quite whiny.Β  Everyone was just a little too understanding and ‘cool’ about absolutely everything. I think the author attempted too many twists, and thus there were too many just ‘coincidences’. We never get to the bottom of why Elia’s parents don’t seem to exist anymore. Or whether the therapy for Discordants works or not. I’d say it was being left open for a sequel to answer these questions, but I can’t see anywhere else for the admittedly shallow plot to go.

If you’re thinking of Ford Street as a forward-thinking and innovative thinking publishing house, you’d be right. That’s one of the reasons I was not surprised to see that they had taken on this novel. They’re also the most recent publishers of Alyzon Whitestarr by the wonderful Isobelle Carmody. However this novel’s a miss – I’m giving it 3 stars and directing you to go read Ready Player One instead.

Ford Street | 1st June 2019 | AU$19.95 | paperback