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Walking through the library, I happened to glimpse, out of the corner of my eye, a book with a picture of a cat flying through the air, surrounded by high tech-looking weaponry. I was intrigued. I strode over and turned to the back cover, where I was greeted by a robotic hand in disrepair holding up its middle finger. This was something strange, bizzarre, and unfamiliar. I had to try it.
I can honestly say I have never read a bok like this one before. It follows a girl named Zoey, who lives in poverty with her mother, and her cat. When people begin trying to kill her she soon discovers that her uber-rich father has passed away, and she must come claim his place at the head of his business. She leaves for the city of Tabula Rasa, a desert oasis ruled by the upper class, devoid of rules, regulations, and limitations. Soon she discovers that her fathers killer, a cybernetically enhanced frat boy named Molech is still at large, and now is gunning for her.
To answer the question that is undoubtedly floating through your head right now. this novel is just as — if not more — bizarre than it sounds. The dialogue and situations presented in the novel all smack of a sort of juvenile comedy, that works in brilliant contrast to the often extremely grisly conflicts that ensue. This does contribute to some tonal inconsistency however. Sometimes the horrifying and humorous are brought together in the perfect literary marriage. Sometimes Wong cracks a potty joke after a character has died and the humor falls flat. The book is a mixed bag in that respect.
Extremely strong though not very prevalent is Wong’s vision of the future. A place where the poor are left to rot in trailer parks while the rich languish in exotic cities where every desire can be realized with the motion of a finger. Where the average citizen is too captivated by social media to do anything else. A slave to their status updates and viewers, people in this story put themselves in harms way multiple time, and often with disasterous results.
There is no instagram, snapchat, or even facebook in this world. There is only “blink”, a platform that is made up of livefeeds broadcast from peoples camera equiped glasses. This is a major theme throughout the story. Often times, chapters will go by with the only important events happening being seen via blink feed.
I kid you not, I saw this ad right as I was typing this review.
Where “Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits” runs into trouble is its aversion of focus on these things, and a near refusal to adress the idea of a media saturated society. The world of decadence, poverty, and technologically induced slavery is not explored as a dystopian one, but rather, as a setting in which a dystopian story could take place, but doesn’t.
If you are just looking for a quick gripping, slightly funny action novel, then pick this one up. However, if you search for something deeper, you’ll likely come up short as far as this novel is concerned.
11. Fever Crumb By Phillip Reeve: While arresting and bizarre, Fever Crumb manages to provide a story that, despite its other-worldliness and unfamiliar steampunk vocabulary, is extremely intriguing and fun to read.
10. The Grey Griffins Series by Derek Benz and J.S. Lewis: The Grey Griffins series follows a group of friends that discovers a secret world of creatures and monsters through a card game they all enjoy. For a mere children’s series, Grey Griffins establishes some impressive lore, blending Norse mythology, and original creations, for an immersive and fun adventure.
9. The Leviathan Series by Scott Westerfield: Leviathan is a fascinating book, in part because of the strange alternate world it creates. Scott Westerfield’s World War One casts axis powers a masters of machinery, using complicated mechs as their battle vehicles, while the allies, known as Darwinists create genetically modified organisms for their military purposes. The Book follows a young girl in the early 1910s, disguising as a boy in order to serve in the military, on a new airship that is a whale combined with several other organisms so that it can fly. Yeah, you read that right. This sort of quasi-historical weirdness is what makes this series so awesome.
8. The Underland Series by Suzanne Collins: Gregor the Overlander is an excellent series, perhaps because of the unique setting, perhaps because of the element of family it incorporates, or maybe, Suzanne Collins is just a darn good writer (I’m inclined to accept the latter). The series follows Gregor, a young boy living in a New York apartment who follows his toddler sister down a laundry room vent. There they discover the underland, a place inhabited by giant rats, bugs, and bats that live in harmony with the humans there. The book is fascinating, because of the element of destiny that permeates throughout. Gregor is not a great warrior at the beginning of the series, but the underland is in need, and by the end of the series he rises to the occasion. This is either a really well grounded fantasy yarn, or, depending on how you look at it, the worlds oddest coming of age story. Either way, every preteen boy should read this series.
7. The Artemis Fowl Series by Eoin Colfer: Artemis Fowl is a series about a very different hero. He is, essentially, a diabolical mastermind and that is what the first book chronicles. Agent Holly Short, of the fairy police, L.E.P. Recon (see what they did there?) Has to foil his plan. It is this way that he realizes the error of his ways, and eventually decides to use his genius for good. Eoin Colfer is a hilarious writer, and all the books are full of hilarious asides, and quirky characters. It should be noted that Colfer is an Irishman, so some of the slang he uses is considered profane here in the states. This book is recommended for mature readers, of at least 10 years.
6. The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins: I’m sure you’ve heard this a lot, but hear it is; I liked Hunger Games before it was cool. The story when I read it, was so much more than what the movie made it out to be, and part of my mini-review here is a mourning of its failure to be all that it is meant to be. Travel with me, to my fifth grade year, a time when most people didn’t know what a dystopia was, let alone that it was capable of raking in tons at the box office. I encountered the Hunger Games by chance, picking it up out of curiosity one day, and once I got past the fact that the main character, Katniss, was a girl, (this is 11 year old me, remember) I rather enjoyed it. The Premise was a genius concept, a battle to the death, on live television? Come on, what’s greater than that. Suzanne Collins deserves the credit however, for the series’ acclaim. Her writing is relateable not just to other girls, but to guys as well, as her most prominent themes are those of protection, fear, and desperation. For about a year, I told anyone I could about this amazing series, where people fight to death on live television, because an oppressive dictatorship forces them too. I spoke of Collins illustrious voice, describing the decadent culinary creations of Panem just as eloquently as the gory details of tribute Cato’s bloody execution. About 6 months later scores of people who had never read a book voluntarily before prepared to wade through Collin’s sophisticated verbiage, most of it out of their lexile range. I was angry, needless to say. But I’ve held it in, and will continue too. Because I still have something all of them do not. Something I still proudly proclaim like some sort of exclusive accolade; I liked Hunger Games, before it was cool.
5. The Percy Jackson Series by Rick Riordan: Percy Jackson, boy do I love this series. To the point that I can remember where I was when I finished each of these books (the first time). Riordan struck gold with this series by combining humor, a good ol’ fashioned hero’s journey story line, and surprisingly compelling logic explaining why Greek mythology is real, and exists in our world today. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve stopped reading Riordan’s new releases – my fond memories of pre-ordering his book in October, and waiting agonizingly ’till November never to be relived again – but this series has not lost its charm. Whether its me growing older, or a lapse in Riordan’s perfect writing, or maybe just the fact that lightning usually doesn’t hit the same place twice; The multiple other series based off of other myths and such, never reached the same level of immersion, and excellence. Its a good thing Percy Jackson has all of those things in spades.
4. The Ranger’s Apprentice Series by John Flanagan: I began reading Ranger’s Apprentice because of a recommendation from my cousin. He described it as, “Lord of the Ring’s, but without taking a whole chapter to describe a tree.” I was intrigued. I began reading it, and found that it indeed seemed to take more than a little inspiration from Tolkien’s work. But Ranger’s Apprentice is something different all together. It follows the story of a young orphan named Will in the Kingdom of Araluen, a land reminiscent of medieval England. He isn’t strong or big enough to become a knight, but his speed and agility allow him to become a Ranger’s Apprentice. Rangers, an ingenious concept, are essentially the CIA of the middle ages. They gather intelligence, lurk in the shadows, and fight with arrows and knives, not with swords. The action is perfect; each book features twists that, even though you know they’re coming, still manage to sneak up upon you. Ranger’s Apprentice also succeeds in attaching you to the characters. The characters build so well, that by the end of the main series, the reader has built up a sort of rapport with the people in the story. Ranger’s Apprentice is a perfectly built series, where the characters seemingly blossom to life. The reader feels as though they know them, and as a result, they care much more about the event of the series. As aforementioned, Ranger’s apprentice is much more than an interpretation of Tolkien.
3. The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini: Paolini is an excellent writer, and that plays a major part in the insane readability of his series. His series is nothing new in the way of story structure; It features Brom: the mentor figure, Arya: the warrior princess, and Saphira: the trusty steed, (but a dragon this time). However, his beautifully crafted prose makes the books stand out. Whether it’s graphic violence, or beautiful elven landscapes Paolini uses such descriptive imagery that the events of the epic fantasy seemingly come to life.
2. The Alex Rider Series by Anthony Horowitz: Horowitz’ series about a teenage secret agent couldn’t be more formulaic; yet, each book is a page turner because of his penchant for perfectly conceived action sequences. These segments are as creative as they are explosive. Alex snowboarding down a mountain on an ironing board? A Battle on a hot air balloon floating at perishable heights? and best of all, a spy-mob shootout in the middle of an art museum. Nobody writes action like Anthony Horowitz.
1. Airman by Eoin Colfer: I love Artemis Fowl, but it is Airman that cemented Eoin Colfer as one of my Favorite Authors. Airman is the quintessential adventure novel; it combines love, revenge, political intrigue, and flying machines that could definitely never exist in the 19th century, to form a captivating read. The book follows Conor Broekhart, a boy who was born in a hot air balloon, and as a result, has been fascinated with flight ever since. When he and his mentor Victor Vigny are framed for the murder of the beloved king, Conor is thrown into a horrific prison. He spends years there, all the while planning his escape. These are agonizing periods, we just want Conor to get out and claim his life back; we are just as impatient as he is. When he finally does, all of the buildup makes this small final passage at the end of the book immensely gratifying.