I found this to be an enjoyable read in a limited sense. The main character is intimately real to us, and his motivation and reactions are realistic and engaging. However, there is an unfortunate reliance on one conflict area typical of YA fiction that undermines the suspense, leaving us with a reduced level of commitment to the story.
There is a lot of exposition in the beginning, but the setting descriptions are evocative and the social setting details are interesting enough to carry our interest through. The setting is a standard post-apocalyptic society, an island of high tech in a sea of wilderness populated by the deformed results of the pandemic that destroyed civilization. As the plot usually goes, the main character is sent out on a patrol that goes horribly wrong, leaving him stranded in a world that is far more complex than his restricted upbringing has prepared him for.
However, that’s as far as the “standard” goes. Rather than a constant barrage of extreme action that we might expect next, the author takes us to the conflicts within the main character’s mind. We are intimately exposed to his smaller fears and desires. At first, this makes the action seem slow, but as the pace of the story picks up, we get used to being exposed to his reactions to everything and take more and more interest in him as a person.
The problem with the story is the standard theme that attracts many young readers to these novels; “They never tell me anything.” An overdependence on this conflict-creating technique has unfortunate side effects.
The plotline dictates that the mysterious characters driving the action do not tell the main character and his friends anything about what is going on. Fair enough. But this means that the reader is also kept from knowing anything, and, more important, being able to predict what might happen next, a key element in creating suspense.
So when the main character ends yet another battle against unknown adversaries by being rendered unconscious, and wakes up yet again strapped to a hospital bed with tubes attached to every vein, after a while we begin to lose the sense that anybody in the story is in control of anything, and thus we are thrown back to depending on the author for everything. This, in turn, reminds us of the fact that there is an author controlling our experience, and reduces further our connection with the story.
However, near the end the action picks up and we start learning enough about what’s going on to enjoy the storyline. There is a fairly satisfying ending, tying up enough of the plot strings for the reader’s satisfaction, but leaving a few serious ones dangling to attract us to the sequel.(4 / 5)
This review was originally published in Reedsy Discovery.