The future sound of London is an air raid siren.
Lex lives on The Strip. No not the area of Las Vegas which according to everyone who goes there "has been ruined since the mob left".
The Strip is what's left of London after a series of brutal wars between the government and an organisation known as The Corps.
To the government, The Corps are terrorists, plain and simple. To those in The Corps, the government's 24-hour drone surveillance, lies and disorder has left them no choice but to fight back.
Lex's father is a member of The Corps, and therefore a target. Their family does their best to survive in an anxious, bombed-out reality.
Lex wants to do something meaningful with his life, but he doesn't know what that means yet.
Alan is climbing the government ladder, he controls a surveillance drone and watches Lex's father for any suspicious activity. Alan lives with his mother, who disapproves of his career choice. Alan's plan is to make enough money to move out and never see his mother again.
Although Lex and Alan never meet in person, their lives are tied together through government policy and fear and the horrible nightmare that is everyday life in The Strip.
We See Everything is a tight thriller that is all-too real given the current climate in the United States and around the world. It's a book about choosing which side you're on when you don't really want to choose a side at all. It's about trying to survive the ignorance of those who hold power in our world and it's about protecting those that are important to you.
I really enjoyed this novel, check it out!
Black Hole Sun / Won't You Come / And Wash Away the Rain
Soundgarden's dark lyrics were floating around my mind while I read this thrilling sci-fi adventure from Kevin Emerson.
The year is 2213, but no one's really counting anymore because the Earth is dead, swallowed by the sun as it goes supernova.
Earth's population has gone to Mars, but it's only a short stay because Mars isn't safe from the sun's wrath either.
Mars is just a place for the Earthlings to get their act together before they embark on a 150 year journey to a new home.
Liam was born on Mars, and the thought of leaving it behind is crushing, but he goes along with it because leaving is better than being melted to nothing. Liam's friend Phoebe is also disappointed about leaving, together they reminisce about their time together and get ready to board the last starliner to leave the red planet.
As the hour to leave approaches, Liam becomes convinced that humans are not alone on Mars. Soon, he and Phoebe make a series of discoveries that seem to prove his theory. These discoveries will also put Liam and his friends and family in great danger.
Last Day on Mars is the perfect YA sci-fi adventure. The pace is full throttle but not overwhelming, the world is 100% believable, you can tell Emerson has done his research without making the scientific descriptions dry at all. It's Dune for teens, it's Indiana Jones in space, it's Star Wars on Mars, it's the Ice Pirates (yes, I pulled that name), call it whatever you want, you'll be grabbing the sequel to this hard hitting series as soon as you can.
The future ain't what it used to be.
Zen Starling is a thief in a rundown area of the galaxy known as Cleave. He survives by instinct and by knowing his surroundings.
His surroundings, incidentally, are made up of androids known as Motoriks, insects that swarm together to make intelligent beings known as Hive Monks, killer drones, and oh yeah, sentient trains worthy of Stephen King's Blaine in The Dark Tower.
All of this makes up the Great Network.
One dreary evening, Zen is summoned by a Motorik called Nova. she works for a mysterious and legendary being called Raven.
Raven has a job offer for Zen, not that he has a choice in the matter. What follows is furious ride through a dangerous galaxy that you will not want to leave.
I really fell in love with this book. Reeve has done some serious world-building, worthy of Star Wars and Blade Runner. The trains are creepy and dangerous and exciting, the Motoriks are loyal to a fault and the creatures are something out of a Jules Verne novel. I cannot wait for the sequel, if you want to get lost in a world for a while then check out Railhead now.
I recommend Railhead for ages 12 and up!
What if you could be the Grim Reaper?
That's the reality in this awesome new book by Neal Shusterman. It's the future, death is a thing of the past. Nano technology means that even getting hit by a Mack Truck isn't the end.
Sure, you'll spend a few days in a recovery centre while you're pieced back together, but hey, the recovery centres have the best hot fudge sundaes in town. There's no ageing, there's no disease, there's no crime.
On top of this, there's no government. Instead, the online "Cloud", now known as the Thunderhead, is an al knowing, all seeing leader of the world.
To keep the human population from spiralling out of control, select people are chosen to be Scythes, those who live a monk like existence and whose job it is to dole out death.
In a twist of fate, teens Citra and Rowan are chosen by Scythe Faraday to be his apprentices. Together, the teens learn that the world of the Scythes isn't as cut and dry as it seems. There is in-fighting, there is forbidden love, there is a band of rogue Scythes on the loose unleashing hell on people underserving of being "gleaned" as they call it.
Through their training, Citra and Rowan find out some really awful truths about their world, and once they're pitted against each other, all bets are off.
This is a really great book. I was completely sold on this brave new world and even though the Thunderhead made one appearance, I have a feeling it will be back for more in the second instalment. Both boys and girls alike will really get into this awesome new series.
I recommend Scythe to ages 12 and up!
Queen Kelsea's about to take a walk on the wild side.
If you haven't read the first instalment of this series, "The Queen of the Tearling," this review might include spoilers or make absolutely no sense.
Kelsea's in charge of the Tearling, a society on the verge of collapse as the dreaded Red Queen and her army of Mort soldiers prepare their attack.
To make matters worse, Kelsea has been going into fugue states (did we know about fugue states before Breaking Bad?) that take her to a time before an event known as The Crossing. In this time she follows a woman named Lily, who is abused by her husband and living in a world of strict government surveillance, 1984, essentially.
Kelsea's also being visited by a terrifying creature that materializes out of fire. This "dark thing" promises to give her the secret behind the Red Queen's demise if she hands over her necklace, a powerful blue sapphire that appears to grant Kelsea magical powers.
On top of this, she's still gotta run the kingdom as best as she can.
I enjoyed this book, for me it took a darker turn than the first and for me that's always a good thing. There were a lot of passages that I feel were influence by Stephen King, people finding tears in their reality and influencing people in other dimensions or times, it was really well done.
I can also sympathise with some of the criticism, the sapphire necklace appears to work as a deus ex machina, solving all of Kelsea's problems whenever they arise. Also, there are horrifying rape and self harm passages written in explicit detail that might act as a trigger. In the first book, Kelsea is obsessed with how "plain" and "un-pretty" she is but in the second book her magical sapphire necklace solve that problem by making her beautiful. The fact that becoming "beautiful" for Kelsea involves losing a lot of weight is also problematic.
All of those criticisms aside, what I enjoyed the most is the feeling of family and camaraderie that is created within the Tear base. You genuinely feel for their plight and root for them the entire way along, which in my mind is the sign of a well written novel. I will be reading the third one in this series because I couldn't stand not knowing what happens.
I recommend this novel to ages 17 and up!
Kelsea can't catch a break.
At 19, she's heir to the throne, leader of her very own kingdom. Awesome, right? Wrong, it couldn't be further from awesome.
Her mother is dead, her father, well, he's not even in the picture and the kingdom she's inheriting is essentially District 12 and the Dreadfort from Game Thrones thrown into a blender.
Still, she's the chosen one and she's got a job to do. The problem is, nobody expects her to survive a day on the throne. Her uncle is still technically in power, there's a sorcerer / Queen / complete nutcase over the hills making everyone's life miserable through means that I won't spoil but I assure you it will never leave your brains ever.
Yes, things are stacked up against Kelsea. Yet, the one thing she does have is loyal gaurds. Guards that would die for her if need be. And they just might have to.
I loved this book. I know I'm late to the game and that absolutely everyone compares this thing to Hunger Games and Game of Thrones but I simply couldn't help it either, maybe I'm a hack reviewer.
That said, once this books sinks its teeth into you it will be hard to turn away. You will really become invested in these characters and the seemingly insurmountable odds they have to face. I will certainly be getting the second book in the series soon!
I recommend this to ages 16 and up!
After the death of his mother, Albie feels even more alone. His father is an international scientists / tv personality, kind of like Bill Nye or that British guy I can't remember the name of. Anyway, his dad has little time for Albie.
Using his father's own logic, Albie decides that there must be a parallel universe out there where his mother is still alive. Using a banana, a cardboard box, his mother's laptop and the crazy neighbour's psychotic cat, Albie builds a machine to travel between universes.
Each world is slightly different than the one he knows. Well, there is that one world where dinosaurs don't exist. No, he doesn't land in a creationist museum, it's a completely different universe.
When I was a kid I loved Calvin and Hobbes, and this book has a very Calvin & Hobbes feel - when Calvin would build cloning devices and time machines, all out of cardboard boxes. I really liked Albie's determination and DYI attitude, there is a punk rock element to his actions.
There was also a movie with a young Ethan Hawke called The Explorers where a group of friends build a space rocket in their backyard. That movie was dripping with a sort of melancholy, just as Albie Bright does as well, for obvious reasons.
The Many Worlds of Albie Bright is also full of scientific facts, it's teaching you guerrilla style while you fly through the pages hoping this kid will find his mother. I really recommend it, you'll be better off after reading it.
I recommend this book for Years 7 and up!
Katherine and Matthew can't catch a break.
After some serious research, they discover that they've both lived past lives together. From the 1745 Siege of Carlisle to the Crimean War of the mid 19th century to the near future (2039) and more, they are destined to be together.
Each time, however, they are torn apart by tragic circumstance. This is something that the 2039 Kate and Matthew are determined to reverse, but can they before it's too late?
Kate and Matt are good together, and James creates some believable chemistry that spans the ages. I found myself enjoying all of the time periods that they existed in. None of them felt forced or tired, there was enough suspense and action to keep my going right to the end.
The story is told through emails, diary entries, newspaper articles and actual historical documents. A smart, funny and tragic story about love through the ages. If you enjoy Marcus Sedgwick's work, or the Time Traveller's Wife, you'll really like The Next Together.
I rushed blindly into reading Armada with very high expectations. I loved Cline's first novel, Ready Player One and found myself recommending it to anyone who loved video games, D&D or sic-fi/fantasy in general. I have to be honest and say that Armada is no Ready Player One, not by a long shot.
I'll start with the good, Armada definitely made me nostalgic for my youth - jamming quarters into Gauntlet & Double Dragon arcade cabinets, sitting for hours on my bed trying desperately to beat The Legend of Zelda on NES. Even the cover seems to glow with light from an arcade game. It's a novel that wants you to remember the golden age of video games, and that's kinda the problem.
Zack Lightman is a seventeen year old video game nerd with a tendency for physical violence. His father died in a mysterious factory explosion when Zack was one, leaving a boulder-sized chip on his shoulder. His mother, who Zack refers to as "hot" (huh?) can recite Battle Star Galactica and World of Warcraft references better than any Cheeto-crunching basement dweller in the state.
Zack finds solace in a video game called Armada, an online flight simulator he plays every night with his friends. Armada may be the reason Zack lost his girlfriend, but it's also the one thing that keeps him focused and connected to his deceased father, who was also a massive gaming nerd.
After school, Zack spends his time working at Starbase Ace, a shabby video game store owned by Ray, a video game aficionado and Yoda to Zack's Luke. Zack seems happy to not have a plan in life, whittleing away the hours paying Armada and debating Star Trek vs. Star Wars with his friends.
Then, everything changes. Bored in class one day, Zack's gaze wanders to the window where he sees a flying saucer, and not just any flying saucer, the enemy ones from the game Armada. Convinced that he's hallucinating, Zack tries to shrug it off.
The problem is, you can't shrug off an alien invasion.
Every gamer has done it - imagined what it would be like if their favourite game turned out to be true and they were called up to engage in the real life version. Heck, just the other night I had a dream I was asked to save the world by catching as many bass as is humanly possible whilst listening to horrible music - just like the greatest video game ever made, seen here.
Turns out, Zack isn't hallucinating, the invasion is real. So real that a spacecraft lands at his school, men in futuristic uniforms hop out and tell him that he's part of an elite crew of Armada gamers needed to save the earth. That's right, all of those hours of playing video games finally paid off, the game wasn't just a game, it was a training module to prepare humans for the real deal.
Zack is rushed off to a secret base where he's given a few hours to digest the news that the world is about to be attacked by millions of alien craft and he and his slacker friends are the only hope.
That's the good part. I'm going to try not to be too negative, because I really, really wanted to like this novel. The problem for me is that Cline crams so many video game / music / film references into this story that at times it feels as if he inserted them first and then tried to write a story around them.
I don't mind the references, like I said, they made me nostalgic and I guess that's the point, I just felt like the plot and characters suffered because of them.
There's that, and then there's the awfully predictable ending that will make any fan of Ender's Game or The Last Starfighter roll their eyes so hard they'll fall into the back of their skull.
That said, it's a faced-paced, easy read and I am genuinely looking forward to recommending this novel to teens in the library that are immersed in this culture. I can tell Cline had a blast writing it, at least it feels that way, and I guess that should stand for something.
I've heard that Spielberg is making a film out of it, as a Librarian it's sacrilege to say this but I think the film could be done a hell of a lot better and I really look forward to it.
Drugs are bad, mmkay?
Near-future London has been devoured by riots. The culprits? Out of control teens labelled "feral" by the media and the police.
Huge swaths of misbehaving students have been put on a new wonder drug called Concentr8. It's like Ritalin on steroids. Wait, that might be confusing, it's like Super-Ritalin. There, that's better.
Concentr8 has been "proven" by the medical community, often backed by pharmaceutical companies, to reduce criminality in youth suffering from ADHD.
Then, out of the blue, the program is stopped cold. The teens, suddenly deprived of their precious drug, go all Dee Snider and decide that they "Ain't Gonna Take It," hence the riots.
The novel focuses on a young gang, although they wouldn't call themselves that. It's made up of Blaze, Troy, Lee, Femi & Karen. They've been on Concentr8 for many years and decide to wander out and see if they can capitalize on the rioting.
The problem is Blaze, their unofficial leader, decides to take things to a brand new level. He holds a man at knife-point, robs him and takes him to an abandoned warehouse in London where he holds him hostage. The others go along with the crime, because that's what gang members usually do.
With no real plan in mind, they tie the hostage to a radiator and decide to wait out the riots.
Told from multiple perspectives, including all of the gang members, a journalist, the hostage, a police negotiator and the mayor of London, Concentr8 delivers a fast paced, gritty ride through a week-long hostage crisis initiated by a group of troubled teens that don't really know what they want or why they did what they did in the first place.
I'll admit, I didn't know very much about ADHD going into this novel and I found myself thoroughly enjoying the little snippets of research Sutcliffe provides at the beginning of each chapter on drugs like Ritalin and the motives of pharmaceutical companies.
Fans of Trash by Andy Mulligan and the film Attack the Block will really enjoy Concentr8. It's about kids being steamrolled by a system they didn't ask to be a part of. It's about how frantic we are to label kids as having ADHD or bi-polar or whatever disability is the hot new thing. Check it out.