I post series reviews after completing reading an entire series of books. It gives me a chance to reflect on and analyze the series as a whole. These series reviews are designed to also be useful for people who: A) have read the series too and would like to read other thoughts on it or discuss it with others OR B) have not read the series yet but would like a full idea of what the series is like, including possible spoilers, prior to reading it themselves or buying it for another. Please be aware that series reviews necessarily contain some spoilers.
In the not-too-distant future, the heavily populated world is run by corporations instead of governments. The corps keep their workers and people in Compounds where they’ll be safe from the rampant crime in the rest of the world. Supposedly. Those who can’t get jobs at a corp must live in the pleeblands, essentially ghettoes. The pleeblands are haunted by painballers–people who fought their way out of prison in a gladiator-style competition and who are usually now addicted to drugs.
The world isn’t entirely humans and corps, though. There are also a whole slew of new GMO plants and animals, such as rakunks and pigoons. Children can buy bracelets with live fish inside them as wearable pets.
Jimmy works in a corp with Crake. Crake is a genius who the corp allows to create basically whatever he wants. They share a love interest in Oryx, who works with them, caring for the creations Crake makes. Toby lives in the pleeblands, working in fast food restaurants. She is being pursued by a violent stalker, who she is sure will kill her one day. Then she discovers God’s Gardeners, a vegetarian cult that lives on the rooftops of the city gardening, learning all the species of the planet, and preparing for the impending End Times. And the End Times come in the form of a virus released by Crake to destroy humanity and make room for the new breed of humans he has created in his lab–Crakers. Crakers are herbivorous, polyamorous, and turn blue when they are in heat. The pandemic wipes out almost everyone, but not quite. Jimmy is left to care for the Crakers, and Toby survives, reminiscing about how her life has gone. And there are some that Crake gave an immunity drug to. They gather together and attempt to survive, guide the Crakers, and ponder on how things turned out this way.
The future world, prior to the virus outbreak that destroys most human life, is incredibly imaginative and simultaneously realistic. It is by far the strength of the series. Atwood takes real modern day science and intelligently extrapolates how that combined with our evolving culture would affect life on Earth. The change from politicians and nations controlling the world to corporations doing so makes excellent sense. The types of animals those corps create are also logical both within that context and from a scientific perspective. For instance, the mo’hairs are sheep who have had their genetics modified so that their wool is instead human hair to makes wigs out of. How the world works makes sense and is slightly frightening at the same time. It’s a subtle dystopia.
The post-apocalyptic setting is slightly less creative. Only a few humans survive and quickly leave the cities to live in the countryside. Conveniently, at least half of the group of survivors are from the vegetarian cult, God’s Gardeners, who predicted the end times, and so are well prepared for living in the wild. This setting is much staler compared to the pre-apocalypse dystopia. It feels as if the characters are just sitting in a clearing in the woods chatting at each other. This would not be a problem if the characters were rich enough to sustain the plot when the creative world has disappeared. But most of them are not.
Atwood is known for writing richly imagined female characters in scifi settings. Unfortunately, this series is dominated by men, with the women mostly relegated to secondary roles, with the exception of Toby. Toby starts out strong, and the book focusing on her story (The Year of the Flood) is the strongest of the series as well. But in the post-apocalyptic setting, Toby loses all of her vim and three-dimensionality. She becomes a woman obsessed with a man and pining for things she can’t have. The male characters who dominate the story lack anything compelling. Crake reads precisely as a slightly creepy genius. Jimmy is difficult to get to know since he spends most of the series narrating when he is out of his mind from the effects of the apocalypse. And Zeb reads as a muscled thug who comes to his senses when it best suits him. None of these male characters show real breadth or true humanity. They could have carried the story well, although I would still have missed the strong female presence Atwood brings to scifi. However, these men seem more like caricatures of types of men we meet throughout our lives.
The plot is clearly meant to show us how the world could be destroyed and also how new life begins, complete with religious mythology. Some of the plot twists that go with this core of the plot work and others don’t. For the world destroying, the plot approaches it in two ways. There’s telling how the world ends from an outsider, underprivileged perspective of a woman who happens to survive. This aspect of the plot had enough twists and differences, such as Toby’s involvement in the God’s Gardeners cult, that it maintained interest. The plot also tells how the world ends from the perspective of a man caught in a hopeless hetero love triangle with a kind woman and an evil genius. This common trope takes no different plot twists or turns. It is entirely predictable and dull. A bit of a flop. The twists in the final third of the story, how the world begins and the last of the prior world fades out with a murmur, does nothing truly daring. Toby’s romance ends essentially as expected. Loose ends are tied up. And the Crakers take over with a new mythology given to them by a flawed human being. I’m sure this is meant to say something radical, and maybe someday to someone it will, but to the reader who has already read many thinly veiled take-downs of religion and where it comes from in scifi, it was rather ho-hum and long-winded. Particularly when compared to the much shorter and more richly written work by Atwood taking a similar anti-religion stance: The Handmaid’s Tale.
Overall, this is a series with two-thirds of the plot set in a richly imagined and intelligently extrapolated subtle dystopia future. The basic plot of dystopia to apocalypse to post-apocalypse is told slightly non-linearally with some interesting poetic-style writing inserted in-between chapters. Most of the characters feel flat against the rich backdrop, although one female character at first stands out then slowly fades. Recommended to readers interested in a realistic near future dystopia who don’t mind a rather typical plot and two-dimensional characters will enjoy most of the series, although they may enjoy the first two books more than the third.
3.5 out of 5 stars
Source: PaperBackSwap, library, and Audible
Book Review: MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood (Series, #3) (Audiobook narrated by Bernadette Dunne, Bob Walter, and Robbie Daymond)
The world has been mostly wiped out by a virus released by Crake, who thinks he’s helping save the earth with a cleansing flood. The survivors who are left are some of the scientists who worked with him, some people who were following a crunchy granola earth-centric cult known as God’s Gardeners, and Painballers–dangerous drug addicts who survived a gladiator-style fighting ring. There’s also the Crakers. Genetically engineered by Crake and the scientists, they’re a new version of humans who are herbivorous and naturally poly. They also are only attracted to sex when the women are in heat and visibly blue, thus preventing sexual violence amongst themselves. The God’s Gardeners, scientists, and Crakers comes together to try to survive in this world and defend themselves from the painballers. Toby, a God’s Gardener, ends up leading and educating the Crakers. She also rediscovers Zeb, the God’s Gardener leader’s brother who she previously had a crush on. Zeb tells her the story of how his brother, Adam, came to be mad.
I was under the impression that this was supposed to be a set of two companion novels, not a trilogy. So when this book was released, I was surprised and excited. The prior two books left the reader hanging, not knowing what really happened after the flood, and I was eager to find out what did happen. I wish this book had lived up to the creativity and excitement of the second one, The Year of the Flood.
At first it appears the sole narrator of the book will be Toby, the woman from The Year of the Flood who flees to God’s Gardeners to escape her dangerous stalker and slowly grows in strength. Slowly, though, she begins to share narration with Zeb, who tells her his and Adam’s background stories. Interspersed in this is Toby’s evening bedtime stories to the Crakers, who insist upon this and treat it with respect and ritual. Eventually, one of the Crakers tells some of the evening stories. The format isn’t bad, although it’s odd that when Zeb is telling his story to Toby, she’s talking about him telling the story to her in the third person. So the book will say “Zeb remembered” or “Zeb thought,” instead of just having Zeb take over the narration of the story. It felt especially odd since the audiobook had the narrator change from the female voice of Toby to the male voice of Zeb who proceeded to refer to himself in the third person. Similarly, although the bedtime stories to the Crakers were well-written, easily elucidating a bedtime story and letting the reader imagine the questions and comments from the Crakers that we don’t actually hear, a lot of the stories didn’t feel as if they added much to the book. They felt a bit like page-fillers. I get it that Atwood is trying to show where religion comes from (blind trust in a fallible person), but it felt a bit heavy-handed and unnecessary to me.
Toby’s character progression from a strong, creative, firecracker of a woman to someone who second-guesses herself, bemoans her inability to properly defend people, and moons after a man obsessively was rather jarring and disappointing. I’m all for Toby having a love life, and I think her having one as an older woman is something we don’t see enough in literature. But I don’t feel like her excessive pining and worrying over it was totally within character. Similarly, she seems to lose all ability to trust in herself and her capability in defending herself and others in bizarre situations. The one thing that did feel within her character was her taking the Crakers under her wing. These flaws in the characterization of Toby are kind of a big deal since she’s the only female narrator out of three narrators, and since she was such an amazing main character in The Year of the Flood. She deserves to have more of the story and more presence of personality than she gets.
That said, Zeb’s backstory is interesting and lends a lot of light to some of the mysteries from the previous two books. In some ways they were the best parts of the book, since we get to revisit the incredible pre-flood world Atwood created.
In comparison, the post-flood world is dull and lacks creativity. It’s essentially a bunch of survivors living in a jungle with some genetically engineered humans. The only extra or special thing added into this basic formula is the Crakers, and they are not that engaging or interesting. They’re mostly just a little creepy and off-putting.
The main conflict of the plot is rather predictable, although the ending is a bit of a surprise. The end of Toby’s story moved me the most, and that’s not a surprise since she is by far my favorite character in the series. The end of the book makes it clear that this is really more about the Crakers and the basis of their society, which I think explains my lukewarm feelings about the book.
The audiobook narrators all did a lovely job emoting the various characters they played. The choice of having a male narrator speak for Zeb’s story even though Zeb isn’t actually speaking was a bit odd, though.
Overall, those who enjoyed The Year of the Flood the most of the first two books will be a bit disappointed in Toby’s characterization and probably find the post-flood world a bit dull, although they will still enjoy seeing the end of Toby’s story. Those who preferred Oryx and Crake and have a liking of or interest in the Crakers will likely enjoy this finale to the series the most.
3 out of 5 stars
Ty lives with his pioneer family subsea but he can’t convince his crush Gemma to leave Topside. Why is she so afraid of subsea? This was his biggest problem until his parents get kidnapped by surfs when they attempt to do a trade. Plus, Gemma wants to convince her fugitive brother to let her tag along with him. And townships keep disappearing, only to turn up later, chained up and anchored subsea with everyone dead inside. It’s a giant web of mysteries but do they intertwine at all?
I absolutely loved the first entry in this scifi series, which is unusual for me, since it’s YA. Not generally my genre. So I was excited to see the sequel available on Audible. It’s still an exciting adventure and interesting world but not quite as tightly and expertly constructed as last time.
Whereas Ty’s voice worked perfectly in the first book, in this one he reads a bit young. He went through a lot in the first entry, he should have presumably matured a bit more than he has. Similarly, Gemma hasn’t developed much since the first book either. I think these characters should have been given more space to grow more. Particularly in a YA series, it’s important to let the characters develop and mature at a more rapid rate. That’s the reality for teenagers after all.
Plot-wise, I honestly felt that there was a bit of a deus ex machina at work that also didn’t fully play into the rules of the world as originally set up. Still, though, the mystery is well-plotted and difficult to predict. It includes real danger without being too violent. It’s the perfect level of thriller for a YA reader who’s not so into the gore. On the other hand, I also found it frustrating that Ty’s parents aren’t around for most of the book. One of the things refreshing about the first one was that his parents were actually present and helpful without being too pushy or overshadowing. This time around, Falls went the more popular YA adventure route and just flat-out got rid of them for most of the book.
But the world Falls has built is still rich and unique, and she expanded upon it. We now get to see more of what the surf life is like, in addition to more of the shady side of things, such as the boxing/fighting rings. We also see some more of the government and law enforcement and have a better understanding of the world as a whole. It’s all richly imagined and drawn, right down to what styles of clothes different groups wear to what they eat. One detail I particularly enjoyed was that the surfs, a poor outcast lot, eat a lot of fish and blubber because it’s easy to catch, whereas Ty’s family eats a lot of vegetables because they grow them. Details like that really make a world.
The audiobook narrator, Keith Nobbs, read the whole thing a bit flat for my taste. He didn’t have as much enthusiasm and inflection as I thought was appropriate for a book about a subsea adventure starring two young teenagers! The production quality was high, he was easy to understand, but he didn’t really bring Ty to life. I’d recommend reading the print book over the audio, honestly.
Overall, then, the characters are a bit slow in their development and the plot feels a bit lazier than last time, but the characters are still well-rounded and the plot maintains an appropriate level of mystery. Toss in the richly imagined and describe post-apocalyptic and very wet world, and it’s well worth the read.
4 out of 5 stars
Lilith Grey has spent her entire life living below ground–among the lucky descendants of the humans who escaped there before catching the virus that turned the rest of humanity into monsters from fairy tales. But one day Lilith and her friend Emma get temporary vaccines and go above ground to a tourist theater to view these vampires and shapeshifters in person. When everything goes horribly wrong, Lilith finds herself whisked away from the carnage on the back of a werewolf. Can she ever get back below ground?
I was hesitant to accept a YA book for review, since the genre is not one I tend to enjoy. But I had previously read and thoroughly enjoyed a book by this indie author, so I decided to give it a go. Her other work, Hungry For You, is a collection of zombie themed short stories that manages to put a fresh twist on that genre, so I was hoping for more of that unique glint in her YA work as well. This, her first full-length novel, is more unique than what is currently saturating the market, but I did not feel that it lived up to the expectations I had based on her short story collection.
The basic concept is intriguing. Many post-apocalyptic stories feature humans living in bomb shelters or other similar underground enclosures but not for the reasons put forth in this novel. This unique twist is what I’ve come to expect from Harte’s writing, and it definitely was the part of the story that kept me reading. Seeing how the mutated humans lived above ground versus how the non-mutated lived below ground was intriguing and interesting. I wish more time had been spent building this world and less on the emotions of the main character (not to mention her friend, Emma, and the werewolf, Silver). The scifi explanations for the fantastical creatures was also engaging, but again not enough time was spent on it. Similarly, while the typical werewolves and vampires exist among the infected above ground, there are also the more unique such as the ewtes who mutated to live in the water but can walk on the ground with water tanks. Actually, I could have easily spent an entire book among the ewtes. They were far more interesting than our stereotypical main character Lilith. The world and minor characters are what kept me reading….not the plot or main characters.
The initial plot set-up is painfully stereotypical. Clueless teenage girls wind up in danger. Two men save them. One is an angst-ridden werewolf. The other is a mysterious, handsome intelligent fella. The girls protest they can care for themselves but the reader can see they can’t really. The main teenage girl feels inexplicably pulled to the werewolf angst man. The werewolf angst man feels drawn to the teenage girl and angsts about it. And on we go. The last few pages of plot, thankfully, didn’t take the typical turn, but honestly the pay-off was incredibly minor compared to the rest of the stereotypical YA plot. Even just making it a teenage boy from below ground saved by a female werewolf would have been a change enough to make me more interested. I also was disappointed to see no depth or examination of the human condition here, which I saw in Harte’s previous work. I was excited to see what depth she could bring to YA but she didn’t even bring an empowered female main character to the genre. Quite disappointing.
Ignoring my own quips with the plot and main characters, the book simply does not read like a solid first entry in a series. It gives the reader mere tastes of what we want to know from a first book in a series, like who the DEI are and why everyone is afraid of them, while lingering on things like how the main character craves the werewolf. That is fine if it was a paranormal romance, but it feels more like it is meant to be a post-apocalyptic/dystopian style novel. A clearer world needs to be established and characters more fully fleshed-out if they are to hold up a whole series. There has to be a clear world and a three-dimensional main character set up before the danger if the reader is to feel any connection or caring at all. As it is, I mostly just wanted to wander off and follow the ewtes.
Overall, then, this is definitely a book for YA fans only. It’s the basic plot from YA with a twist set in a unique future world that was fun to visit. YA fans will have to try it out for themselves to determine how much they will enjoy that visit.
3 out of 5 stars
Source: Kindle copy received from author in exchange for my honest review
Giveaway! The author is running a giveaway along with her month long blog tour. Check out the rafflecopter for details!
Ok, before I review, the numberings need a bit of explanation. Comic books are issued very similarly to academic journals. So there are skinny issues that come out every few weeks (generally). A few of these bound together make a volume. A bunch of these bound together make a book (what we call in academia a “bound journal.”) I *was* reading the books of The Walking Dead but then I caught up to the author. I decided I didn’t want to buy issues, because they’re flimsy and you read through them very quickly, so I’m now reading the volumes. I hope that makes some semblance of sense. This will probably be the case throughout the rest of the series, because you have to wait a long time for the books, and I just am too impatient for that. My reviews will then be much shorter, because a book contains a few volumes, and I am now reviewing one volume at a time. Moving right along to the review!
This volume is basically cleaning up the mess from the action of the previous one and prepping for the action of the next one. Classic in-between chapter. What this volume really reminded me of is the infamous “Live together or die alone” speech by Jack in Lost. In fact, this volume sees Rick basically trying to turn into Jack and failing miserably. Long-time readers know I’ve never liked the guy, so personally I got a lot of schadenfreude out of seeing him be so pathetic in this volume.
That said, the survivors are definitely going for a new strategy, which will lend itself well to future fresh storylines, which any long-running series needs.
Fans of the sex will be quite happy with the developments in that area. Drama! Intrigue! Changes of partners!
Overall, it’s an enjoyable entry, if not mind-blowing, that perfectly sets things up for the next volume. Fans won’t be disappointed!
4 out of 5 stars
Source: Newbury Comics
Previous Books in Series:
The Walking Dead, Book One (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Two (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Three (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Four (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Five (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Six (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Seven (review)
Hello my lovely readers!
I am pleased to be able to say my first full-length novel, Waiting For Daybreak, is now available on Amazon! After the first 90 days, it will also be available at Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.
What is normal?
Frieda has never felt normal. She feels every emotion too strongly and lashes out at herself in punishment. But one day when she stays home from work too depressed to get out of bed, a virus breaks out turning her neighbors into flesh-eating, brain-hungry zombies. As her survival instinct kicks in keeping her safe from the zombies, Frieda can’t help but wonder if she now counts as healthy and normal, or is she still abnormal compared to every other human being who is craving brains?
I do hope you will give it a shot.
If you have a book blog and would like to participate in the upcoming blog tour, just let me know!
R is a zombie, and he remembers nothing about his life before he was one–except that his name starts with the letter R. He and his group of the other living dead inhabit an old abandoned airport and are ruled by the bonies. They hunt the living not just for the food, but also for the memories that come from ingesting their brains. It’s like a drug. One day when he’s out on a hunt, R eats the brain of a young man who loves a young woman who is there, and R steps in to save her. It is there that an unlikely love story begins.
Now that I have a new job I decided to stop going through the rigamarole that is finding something you actually want to read as an audiobook in the public library and subscribe to Audible, especially since I always have my kindle with me anyway. I decided to choose audiobooks to read from the bottom of my wishlist, so everything you’ll be seeing on here (unless it was free on Audible) was put on my wishlist a long time ago. Half the time I couldn’t remember why it wound up there. That was the case here. I mean; I’m assuming it was there for the zombies, but I basically had no other idea about it heading in. This is partly why my mind was blown, so if you want a similar experience I’m telling you to go get yourself a copy right this instant! Vamoose! For those who need more convincing, though, please do read on.
Perhaps surprisingly, I have read zombie love stories before, so I wasn’t expecting too many new or particularly engaging ideas. This book is overflowing with them though. Everything from zombies getting high on other people’s memories to getting to see both the zombie and living side of the war to the concept of what the war is ultimately about to even what a zombie is was all brand-new. And it pretty much all makes sense in the world Marion has set up and is engaging. I could not “put the book down.” I listened to it in every spare second I had. Nothing went the way I predicted and yet it all made complete sense.
R is far more complex than what you’d expect from a zombie, even before his symbolic awakening. Julie is everything you would want from a heroine. She’s pretty, smart, and she says fuck! She can hold her own but is still emotional and vulnerable. She’s exactly what any artistic, strong woman would be in a zombie apocalypse. Even the more minor characters are well-rounded, and there is the racial diversity one would expect from a zombie apocalypse in a big city.
Alas, the narration was not quite as amazing as the story. Although Kenerly does a very good job, sometimes he fails to convey all of the emotions going on in the scenes or doesn’t switch characters quite quick enough. Don’t get me wrong, it was very good and didn’t detract from the story at all, but I also don’t feel that it added a ton to it.
This is a book that I know I will want to read again, and I may even need to buy an ebook or print version just to do so in a whole nother way next time. It is an engaging new look at a zombie apocalypse that reads more as a dystopia than post-apocalyptic. Anyone who needs restored faith in the ability of humanity to fix where we’ve gone wrong should absolutely give this book a shot.
5 out of 5 stars
Our trifecta of heroes have successfully crossed the Pacific Ocean and are now on the seacoast of Australia. Yorick naturally insists on looking for his long-lost girlfriend in the drug-infested city of Sydney. Meanwhile, Dr. Mann gets wooed by the one-eyed sailor rescued from the pirate ship in the previous book. We also learn more of Ampersand the monkey’s backstory.
It probably comes as no surprise that I am still loving this series, although I am super-grateful to have one containing so many issues to be holding up so well! Although I’m not a big fan of the Dr. Mann being duped story, the other two more than make up for it.
Seeing Sydney torn apart by heroin provides a different scenario in this post-apocalyptic world. We’ve seen the women fall to violence, over-monitoring, and chaos, but we haven’t seen the self-medication reaction yet. The scenes with the women on heroin are sad and poignant. The perfect backdrop to Yorick’s story.
Naturally as an animal lover and animal rights person I love Ampersand’s backstory. Originally abused and destined for a research lab, his shipping got mixed up and wound up with Yorick to be trained to be a helper animal instead. How this ties in with Dr. Mann is disturbing and the perfect set-up for the next issue. After seeing all he’s been through, I really hope they find Ampersand the next issue!
Overall, the art and story are consistently good and in spite of being the seventh in a long series the storyline has not gotten out of hand or become dull. This is an excellent entry that will leave fans craving more!
5 out of 5 stars
Source: Public Library
Previous Books in Series
Y: The Last Man: Unmanned (review)
Y: The Last Man: Cycles (review)
Y: The Last Man: One Small Step (review)
Y: The Last Man: Safeword (review)
Y: The Last Man: Ring of Truth (review)
Y: The Last Man: Girl on Girl (review)
The group continues to slowly lose their collective minds, although it is quickly made evident that they haven’t gone as crazy as some groups when they find themselves stalked by living cannibals. Toss in a preacher who failed to protect his flock and what turned out to be a pack of lies from the scientist, and it’s no wonder the group is suspicious when a couple of men approach and offer them refuge in an idyllic community just outside of DC. They in their state of PTSD can’t stop seeing danger around every corner and don’t even realize the dangerous ones just might be themselves.
You know how they say you can always find someone in the world worse off than you? Well, the first part of book 6 seems to be all about proving that’s true, perhaps in a way to humanize the group prior to how abundantly evident their loss of humanity is in contrast to the DC compound. That isn’t to say I particularly enjoyed the cannibalism plot-line. I can see its value, yes, but I also feel like we’d already seen how bad humanity can go in Woodbury, and if people are going to be eating people, that’s what you have zombies for. So the first half of the book is kind of meh to me.
On the other hand, seeing our group in the DC compound is delicious. I think one of the pieces of artwork in the appendix at the back explores the contrast eloquently. Michonne is dressed up talking to a group of women at a party, but she’s hiding a sword behind her back. The group has become so used to constantly being turned on and at war with the zombies and other survivors that they cannot relax. Classic PTSD. It’s fascinating to see how even Carl can recognize that they are no longer like these people who’ve been able to have downtime in the zombie war. Anybody who understands war and trauma at all would know that these people need special care. Even just the way they clump up and sleep all together in spite of being offered separate quarters is a symptom of PTSD, and yet the DC group makes Rick a cop. Um….ok. A seriously questionable choice there, but then again, the mayor of DC did used to be in politics. And we all know how smart those types can be. *eye-roll*
In any case, it’s obvious that this book is setting things up for a show-down between our traumatized group and the DC folks. I’m enjoying seeing our main guys turn slowly evil, and I’m curious to see how far Kirkman is willing to take it. That said, the first half of the book with the cannibals seemed kind of unnecessary to me. I’d rather have seen more zombies. Overall, it moves the plot forward, but that plot momentum is left mostly to the second half of the book. Worthy of the series and hopefully book 7 will live up to the build-up.
4 out of 5 stars
Source: Public Library
Previous Books in Series:
The Walking Dead, Book One (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Two (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Three (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Four (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Five (review)
Ty was the first person born subsea. His family are settlers on the bottom of the ocean, a new venture after global warming caused the Rising of the seas. Ty loves his life subsea and hates Topside. One day while adventuring around in the dark level of subsea, he stumbles upon a submarine and a Topside girl looking for her long-lost older brother. Helping her challenges everything Ty believes in.
This is one of those rare YA books that gives me renewed hope for the genre. There are no stupid love triangles. The adults are intelligent and good parents. There are bigger worries than who you’re taking to prom. There’s adventure but no gratuitous violence. Romance but in a healthy way. Basically, it’s everything you’d hope for in a YA book. I’d gladly hand this to any teen or preteen looking for a good read and feel happy in doing so too.
The post-apocalyptic setting is unique, intelligent, well thought-out, and supported by science. Creating a new American frontier under the ocean is delightful, and Falls draws on the American pioneer experience in cute, tongue-in-cheek ways. For instance, the settler kids call their parents “Ma” and “Pa.” They earn their acres by successfully farming them for 5 years (a common time-frame in the old west). Plus, the world is different beyond subsea as well, reflecting drastic changes that would occur with such a huge change in the world. There are people called “floaters” who live in houseboats. Those who still live on land live in huge skyscrapers, and everyone sends their kids to boarding schools. Perhaps most interestingly is the fact that ever since the falling of the land into the ocean the US has been under “emergency law.” A harrowing possibility to any astute YA reader today.
Ty and Gemma are adventurous and intelligent yet still flawed in their own ways. Gemma can be too impulsive, Ty too cautious. This is naturally part of what makes them a good potential couple. They balance each other. Similarly, Ty’s parents are smart and caring, yet still capable of being wrong sometimes, even though well-intentioned. They’re an example of the type of parent we hope most kids will have. In contrast, Gemma is an orphan with an evil boarding school mistress to provide an adult for kid to hate.
The plot is deliciously complex and for once I actually did not guess the ending. It left me surprised and happy simultaneously. Falls does not take the easy way, but she also doesn’t use any lame deus ex machinas.
I feel my review is not doing this book justice. Suffice to say it is a richly complex world she has created, filled with characters that are worthy of being looked up to but with interesting scifi elements to keep the interest level high. I found myself never wanting to leave the subsea world and sort of wishing living subsea was an option in real life.
Overall, I recommend this to fans of YA scifi, but also to anyone with a curiosity about what it might be like to live on the bottom of the ocean as a new pioneer.
5 out of 5 stars