When Benson Fisher receives a scholarship to the exclusive Maxfield Academy, he dreams of finally escaping the never-ending string of foster homes. What he discovers, is far worse. Part prison, part Darwinist nightmare, there is no escape from the arbitrary rules and unpredictable schedule, save for death. There are no teachers; the students run everything from administration and security, to trash and cooking, all under the constant surveillance of their unseen, all-knowing captors. Benson’s desperate plans to break free destroy the fragile truce between the student-led groups, and reveal the horrifying truth behind the school’s purpose. Intense and suspenseful, this dystopian thriller is punctuated by genuine surprise twists, and capped by an ending sure to leave readers demanding more.
Archive for category Science Fiction
Rosalinda Fitzroy has just woken up from sixty-two years in stasis, only to discover that everyone she knew is dead, and society has changed greatly. As the last member of a once-powerful family, she’ll inherit the world’s most powerful company when she comes of age. Until then, she has to adjust and rediscover herself, free at last from her domineering parents and their unreal expectations, free to pursue her own dreams. But with an unstoppable killer stalking her, that freedom may be short-lived. As she struggles to stay alive, the mystery of her past unfolds, revealing romance and tragedy. This futuristic riff on Sleeping Beauty combines an interesting setting with a fast-paced plot and complex characters, making for a satisfying read.
Alex has spent most of his seventeen years hunting angels, extra-dimensional energy vampires who feed from humans and leave illness in their wake. As the angels flood into our world, their influence rapidly grows, inspiring a new religion, with only a very few realizing the awful truth and fighting back. Willow is a psychic teen whose unique heritage holds the key to stopping the angels, so they target her for death. In a last-ditch effort to survive and save humanity, Alex and Willow desperately team up, fleeing cross-country in search of allies. As they race against the clock, the peril intensifies, leading to one electrifying confrontation after another, and an explosive climax. High octane action meets newfound love in this adrenaline-fueled thriller.
As a gay teenager living with his little brother and grandparents on an island community of only 4,000, Zach feels like an outsider, relying on the Internet for peace of mind and interaction with the outside world. When he’s grounded for forgetting to take out the trash, and denied Internet privileges, his desperation for diversion leads him to attempt astral projection. After he tries and fails, he puts the whole thing out of mind, even though the woman at the New Age store totally swore the special incense she gave him would help next time. And then Zach’s little brother, Gilbert, goes missing, and Zach once again tries to astral project in the hopes of finding him. This time, it works. In the astral realm, Zach can track his brother and his kidnappers, but can he find a way to alert the police before something bad happens? Luckily, in the process, he runs into Emory, another astral projector who’s much better at it … and apparently into Zach as well. Together, they can try to save Gilbert and give one another strength and comfort. That is, if the dark creatures stalking the astral plane don’t get them first.
There’s a lot of raw emotion and adolescent fervor woven into the pages of this relatively short roller coaster of a tale. Zach comes off as pretty high-strung, especially once the subplot regarding his little brother kicks into gear and he gets caught up in the tension of the moment. He and Emory hit it off with genuine chemistry, although something about the pacing seems a little off, even rushed. One can chalk it up to the excitement and adrenaline of the situation, but it still feels like they needed more time before reaching the depths of connection that they did. I’ll be honest: I never really bought into the astral projection element as a compelling factor in the story. As a metaphor for escaping one’s bounds and limitations, it’s dead-on perfect and applicable to the characters. At the same time, it fails to capture me as a reader. Certainly, the logic in which Zach decides to use astral projection, which he doesn’t even believe is real and has never successfully accomplished before, as a tool for finding his missing brother, requires a certain leap of faith on the reader’s part, lest the whole thing collapse. Of course it works, and of course the only other person he meets on the astral plane who isn’t trying to kill him, turns out to cute, gay, single, and of the right age. This is a good book, and I’m thrilled to see a YA paranormal featuring a gay teen and a hint of romance, but as a paranormal story goes, it never quite gels. I think it could have benefited from expansion; with a more leisurely plot, a less frantic atmosphere, and a less pressing deadline, this could have been great instead of good. It’s still a nice change of pace, and maybe we’ll get to see these characters again under less intense circumstances, and get to know them better.
In 1912, Liam O’Connor is rescued from certain death as the Titanic sinks. In 2010, Maddy Carter is snatched away from an airplane just before it crashes. In 2026, Saleena Vikram is taken away from a fatal fire. All three teenagers have just been recruited as the next set of operatives for the TimeRiders. Their mission: to live just outside of time, in order to spot temporal disturbances and prevent changes to history. With Saleena as the observer, Maddy as the analyst, and Liam as the field operative, they’re tasked to do the impossible every day. Trained by Foster, only survivor of the last team, and backed up by Bob, a vat-grown humanoid with a computer brain, they’ve barely settled into their new assignments when history is changed in a major way.
Now they have to defeat a time-traveling madman who altered the outcome of World War 2 for his own benefit before painstakingly obscuring his tracks. With the team scattered across decades, rapidly running low on resources, they’ll be tested like never before. But history’s not done changing, and with each shift, things get much, much worse. If they don’t succeed, humanity will have no future.
TimeRiders ia a fast-paced, intense adventure that hits the ground running and never looks back. Obviously, mixing time travel with alternate World War 2 scenarios is nothing new, but in this case, it still serves as an adequately entertaining launchpad for an exciting story. I’ve always been a sucker for good time travel adventures, and this one delivers in full, with action-packed scenes set over multiple decades. From the war-torn past to the apocalyptic future, there’s plenty going on here. I’ll be interested in seeing what sort of adventures our heroes get into with future installments.
The Unified States are safe, but at a cost. Their expanse surrounded by the invisible National Border Defense System, their society tightly policed by merciless Enforcement Officials, their people rigidly broken down into castes of employment, everything is controlled and oppressed. However, out near the borders, there’s room to breathe and dream. Rachel and her mother have lived on the Property for years, ever since Rachel’s father’s disappearance. Rachel’s been trained by her mother to think for herself, to distrust the government, and to always seek out the truth. As a result, Rachel’s fascinated by the Line, that section of the Border which runs just past the Property, beyond which lies the mysterious expanse simply called Beyond, populated by the Others.
What lies Beyond, for real? If anyone knows, they’re not saying. That is, until Rachel uncovers a message from the Others, sparking a cascade of revelations and family secrets. Now she has to question her life and her purpose, and decide what’s best for her family and herself. But what will her choice cost her?
The Line has an interesting premise, and an intriguing setup. It’s easy to see the parallels between Rachel’s totalitarian, control-obsessed society, and modern day issues regarding immigration, border control, and internal security. It’s also easy to see Rachel’s Unified States as an analogue of the United States, even though this may lead to some inaccurate assumptions regarding the world as a whole. It’s hard to reconcile our world with the one described here, leading to some jarring discrepancies.
Again, there’s a lot of potential in exploring the particular social factors which come together to create this world. Unfortunately, it’s a quick, fast read, and relatively little of the setting is explored in any significant detail. Worse still, the story comes to an abrupt halt, pretty much in mid-scene, setting things up for the inevitable sequel, as though one book had been split in two. As a result, what conflicts have been raised fail to hit a satisfying conclusion, either left unfinished, or else defused early. The rising blend of paranoia and tension could have turned this into a taut thriller, but it somehow feels softened.
A certain lack of depth and characterization counts as a further strike against the book as a whole. For all that we get inside various heads and are privy to their thoughts, I never really felt connected to anyone besides Rachel, and even then it was tenuous at best. Oddly enough, the term I’d use to describe the overall situation is “claustrophobic,” since everything takes place in a very small amount of space.
I enjoyed this book, but it could have been so much more, once it decided what to be. On the bright side, it looks as though the sequel will further explore societies on both sides of the Border, and delve into the mysteries of the Others and their world. We’ll just have to see what happens.
Picking up where Cycler left off, Jill McTeague has decided to make something of a fresh start with her life. Thus, she’s off to New York with her best friend Ramie, while she figures out just what she’s supposed to do with herself – and her male alter ego, Jack. Jack may only exist for a handful of days each month, but he’s ready to seize every moment he can take, and indulge in a freedom he’s never known before. It sounds great, in theory. Jill can spend her time working at temp jobs while waiting to see if her boyfriend Tommy ever completes his road trip across America (and obsessing about how and when to lose her virginity) while Jack discovers what makes him tick, in between bouts of vigorous sex with his girlfriend, Ramie. A compromise everyone can live with, right?
Only New York’s not as glamorous as Jill expected. Ramie’s busy getting involved in the fashion industry. Jack’s showing up earlier and at unpredictable times. People are complicated. Tommy’s barely communicating. And sex is still an issue. All too soon, Jack and Jill are both wrapped up in matters of the heart that are beyond their control,and happy endings aren’t looking so likely anymore. Will they discover their true passions and find the right choices, or will New York be heartbreak for all involved?
McLaughlin has an interesting premise, albeit one buried in layers of soap opera complications and relationship woes. The intertwined struggles of Jack and Jill to find a balance in their lives, both romantic and in general, is a universal one, easy to relate to. Jill’s obsession with losing her virginity in the perfect manner makes an interesting contrast against Jack’s rampant sexuality and desire for more personal time. Ramie, who ordinarily balances them out as best friend and girlfriend, is increasingly removed from the action by outside committments and a new focus, forcing them both to think outside the box and make their own choices.
The problem is, these are storylines which would work just as well if Jack and Jill were indeed two separate people. What makes this book unique is the dual-identitied, gender-swapping nature of Jack/Jill McTeague, and how they coexist in the same body. Is Jill a girl who sometimes becomes a guy? All signs point to “yes” given her majority share. Jack is treated (and rightly feels) like an unwelcome intruder, no matter that he can’t control his own existence or manifestations. Draw your own conclusions, this book is rife with allegorical possibilities. Unfortunately, one thing it lacks is explanations. Why is Jill this way? I don’t recall any explanation ever being given. Maybe it’s gamma rays. Why is Jack showing up earlier than expected, or at inopportune moments? Again, no answers. Maybe it’s hormones, or some deep-down self-protective instinct. It just happens.
In short, it feels like there’s a lot of wasted potential here, in which the endlessly fascinating aspects of a gender-shifting protagonist are sacrificed for a more generic set of emotional/relationship stumbling blocks. This book’s open-ended conclusion leaves things ready for another installment if necessary, while leaving all the characters in different places than when they started. I’d love to see a continuation, in which our heroes further explore their own nature and identities. If nothing else, Jack and Jill would undoubtedly find food for thought, and maybe some understanding faces, in the trans community.
Is this a good book? Yes. Could it be a whole lot better? Most likely. It’s enjoyable, fast-paced, and the narrative voices are easy to relate to. It’s a fun read, but there’s still room to grow.
My name is Michael, and, to no one’s surprise, I am a geek. While the manner in which I express my geekitude has changed over the years, from theatre, to writing, to gaming, I’ve always embraced my geekdom. And so I have to say, this is the book I wish I’d had in high school. I really, really wish this anthology had existed back then. Because this book is full of pure whimsical awesomeness, and is a celebration of all things geek. Black and Castellucci have assembled an all-star cast, and encouraged each and every one of them to let their passions and their freak flags fly proudly.
While it’s easy to point at almost any story here and say it’s an excellent piece of work, there are a few which really stand out. First and foremost is Black and Castellucci’s own “Once You’re A Jedi, You’re A Jedi All The Way,” in which a Klingon and a Jedi meet at a convention, have a little too much to drink, and well … the Jets and the Sharks have nothing on Trekkies and Star Wars fans. Can a cross-universe affair work out, or will someone go to the Dark Side? I love the characters, and the situation is both absurd and believable.
Tracy Lynn’s “One Of Us,” about a cheerleader who pays the AV Club to teach her to speak geek in order to impress a guy, is somewhat more predictable in how it turns out, but it’s the good kind of predictable, where you totally root for the characters anyway, and want to see a happy ending. (Hmmm, seems to me this would make a great movie.) It’s a story that really speaks to the importance of owning your passion, whether it’s science fiction, fantasy, or classic romance flicks.
Cassandra Clare’s “I Never” explores the potential for trouble that arises when members of an online roleplaying community meet up in real life … and not everyone lives up to their electronic persona.
Devid Levithan’s “Quiz Bowl Antichrist” shows that just because you’re smart doesn’t mean you have all the answers, while some situations don’t have any answers at all.
Lisa Yee demonstrates that geekery comes in every form, such as baton twirling, in “Everyone But You.” I guess it shows my own geek bias that until now, I’d have sniffed at baton twirling, but here, we see that it’s all a matter of perspective.
Sadly, one story which stands out, does so not because it’s good, but because it’s kind of disturbing. Barry Lyga (an author I love to read, by the way), turns in a strange tale of revenge in “The Truth About Dino Girl.” It’s a cautionary tale: don’t mess with the geeks or bully the outcasts, because you never know when one of them will snap and find a way to ruin your life, but it’s still a fairly ugly piece when you think about actions and consequences. Compared to the other stories, it’s a disharmonious note.
Back to something a bit more reassuring, Wendy Mass’ “The Stars At The Finish Line” is a quirky tale of competition, romance, and astronomy. Here’s another story with sympathetic, believable characters, great chemistry, and a feel-good ending.
Naturally, no collection of geekery would be complete without a Rocky Horror story, and Libba Bray’s “It’s Just A Jump To The Left” satisfies that need, and more.
Scattered between the stories are a number of comic strips, further exploring various aspects of geekdom, written by Black and Castellucci, and alternately drawn by Hope Larson and Bryan Lee O’Malley. These add just that much more flavor to the overall excellent feel of the anthology, and make it truly worth the price of admission. Whether you’re into art, cheerleading, science, theater, science fiction, fantasy, or trivia contests, the message remains the same: embrace that which makes you happy and interesting, stand tall in the face of those who’d mock you, and have fun.
Man, I really could have used this book back then, but I’m damned glad it exists now.
When her asthma got too bad for Beverly Hills, Melody and her family moved to the fresher air of Salem, Oregon. Here, at Merston High, she can do her best to fit in and feel like less of an outcast in her beauty-obsessed family. Meanwhile, Frankie Stein, fresh from an intensive bout of home schooling, is ready for the full high school experience. What no one knows, however, is that Frankie’s the pride and joy of her parents … or rather, of their laboratory. They built their teenage daughter from scratch, following the family tradition.
It turns out that Merston High’s got a whole lot going on under the surface, with an entire community of monsters-in-hiding sending their disguised kids to school there. Vampires, mummies, werewolves, mad scientists, you name it. And while the younger generation may chafe at remaining hidden, their parents are adamant that things stay as they are. So will Frankie and Melody be the wild cards who upset things?
While there’s a good concept here, the plot is weighed down quite heavily by incessant pop culture references and product placements, so that we can’t go a page without someone mentioning Lady Gaga, Prada, Facebook, YouTube, or Gucci. The tongue-in-cheek naming conventions and airhead attitudes likewise work against the overall appeal. It’s a great bridge between the subgenre which spawned books like the Clique and A-List series and more substantial works, but it feels pretty awkward. There’s a lot of untapped potential, and hopefully future installments will see fewer commercials and a stronger story.
After I wrote the above, I did a little research, only to discover that this was based on a series of webisodes, themselves inspired by a line of toys from Mattel. This explains a lot, but also means we have a product tie-in that doesn’t go out of its way to alert those not in the know (yours truly, shopping the wrong aisles as always), and which actually comes off as inferior to the more stylized webisodes. Like some of the characters themselves, this book is suffering from a real identity crisis.
When their parents divorce, April, May and June remain with their mother, moving from Orange County out to the Valley. Think fitting into a new school is hard? The three sisters have to cope with amazing psychic abilities, spontaneously emerging after a decade’s dormancy. April, the tightly-wound oldest, is now a precognitive, receiving all sorts of unwanted (and often confusing) visions of the future. May, the wild child middle sister, can become invisible, reflecting her internal turmoil. June, the youngest, can read minds. Keeping these abilities a secret from everyone else, they try to assimilate into their new school, making friends, meeting guys, going to parties, often with unpredictable results. It’s easy to slip into a clique when you can hear their thoughts, tempting to ditch school when you can avoid detection, and unsettling when you know for certain who you’ll date before you even meet him. But when April’s visions turn terrifying, she has to figure out how to prevent tragedy, and she’ll need the help of her sisters.
Benway does a great job of injecting a normal high school atmosphere with that something extra; who hasn’t wished they could see the future, read minds, or vanish when things got too confusing? The sisters have a believable relationship, and their reactions to having and using their powers are appropriately realistic. The rotating cast of first-person narrators, each with her distinct voice, occasionally gets a little grating at times, but in general, this is a genuinely entertaining, feel-good tale of familial ties and super-powered teenagers.