Reading Fanatic ReviewsScience Fiction
Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Scribd, Mondadori, Angus & Robertson, and Indigo (Chapters)
The Amplified Trilogy*
Compelling, Flawed Heroine in Harsh World
The Amplified box set is a collection of three novels that follow Mari, who is 15 years old when the series begins. The Community is a dystopian world that is divided into the Regulars, the Amplified, and the Restrainers. Everyone is born as a Regular, but some can choose to become Amplified. Since this collection has the complete Amplified series, I am worried about giving away too much of the plot of each book away because, of course, the early books become the foundation of the later books. So I will just give her a brief description each below.
Amplified: In the first book of the series, Mari is not yet Amplified when it begins. When her Amplified older brother returns from duty, she is surprised–and not in a good way–about how he has changed since he has become Amplified. Still, though, she decides to go through the amplification process herself, which includes getting an implant as well as training. Amplification makes the recipients stronger, faster, and better able to attain and retain knowledge. But things are definitely not what they seem; as you might imagine, the government uses these devices for multiple nefarious purposes. In this book, I really enjoyed Mari’s character. Even though she is young, she seems to be one of the few who questions this system.
The Dissenters: In this installment, we learn more about the dissenters. Because of Mari’s unique abilities, she becomes in danger from her fellow Amplifieds who cannot resist obeying commands. What will Mari do to protect herself? Are there others who can help protect her?
The Restrainers: Knowing all that we know about Mari, it seems a surprise that she’s now a Restrainer. But, of course, she has her own agenda. This installment is fast-paced–sometimes a little too much, as I would have liked to have seen some pivotal moments expanded more–and the ending came as a complete surprise, which is so abnormal in this genre.
If you enjoy books like the Divergent series, you will find this series to be quite similar. Mari is a strong heroine who thinks, so she is enjoyable to watch as she tries to figure out this dangerous system that she is a part of. She is multifaceted and becomes even more so as she matures, yet she is not without flaw. All of that is hard to create in one young character, but the author has done a remarkable job. Other people suffer in this society as well. The Community appreciates physical prowess to an extreme. People who are slow or overweight are censured, even if they are good people or do decent things. The series certainly gets you thinking about topics like peer pressure, accountability, personal responsibility, and societal conditioning.
Unfortunately, there were a few problems with grammar, punctuation, and usage. Sometimes wrong words were used like loose/lose consciousness. They were some spacing errors around quotation marks.
Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Mondadori, and Angus & Robertson
Long Tale of Secrets, Aliens, and Autonomy
This book takes place over 300 years in the future. Back in 2055, the human race was nearly entirely wiped out by a virus and land was laid to waste. An alien culture came to Earth and offered salvation, but at a price. They could help with the virus and promised to share the secrets of space travel with the Earthlings, but humans would have to live under their rulership. They wouldn’t be allowed to travel in space until the virus was completely eradicated. Some 300 years on now, humans are still living a tightly controlled existence, and as one might expect, we aren’t liking that too much. Also, the aliens still haven’t given us the secrets to space travel.
This book is told in alternating third-person viewpoints of key characters in the story. We first meet Kethryn, who is about to become president of State Seven. For a variety of reasons, she isn’t quite happy with this, but it is a hereditary role in her sector. The author has built a complex world where things are not clear-cut, and nothing should be taken at face value. The aliens are relatively benign for what is typically seen in science fiction, but they have quite a grip on their human subjects. The struggles of the humans for their own autonomy ring true.
This is a long book. It could have perhaps been tightened in places to keep the pacing humming along. That said, I found this unique take on the sci-fi virus trope to be a good read.
Jacobite by Name*
Speculative Fiction with a Heavy Dose of Political Satire
In this satire about near-future Scotland, that country is feeling the after-effects of Brexit and the wrath of the Tories, specifically a post-Brexit faction called the New Georgians. A shadow a group of scientists, the Guild, responsible for advances in cloning and quantum computing conspire with the Vatican to bring about another Jacobite rebellion.
Will this Jacobite uprising succeed? Or will the Tory plans for Scotland come to fruition?
As an American of Scottish descent who visited that area of Great Britain last year, I was intrigued by the concepts of this book when I read about it at a book review site I use. This book is definitely political satire with a healthy dose of wry, dark humor. I would also call it speculative fiction because of the Guild’s work in furthering modern technology and its use. The book lacks a clear protagonist, which sometimes makes the book’s many twists and turns hard to follow. The story is told from the perspective of an omniscient narrator in an almost detached, journalistic fashion, with a heavy emphasis narrative prose that tells more than shows. We are told of political events more than we see them happen in action. I think this book could have benefited from being shown through the dialogue and actions of a narrator-protagonist rather than being told by a narrator.
I did laugh at the line early in the book when the new Viceroy of Scotland’s Tory faction is described thus: “If only they could restore the social structures of Georgian times, London could once again be the centre of a great empire spanning the globe. People said that Tories wanted to take the country back to the 1950s but in the Viceroy’s view, that wasn’t nearly ambitious enough. The 1750s would be ideal.”
Would There Be Danger If What Was Hidden Was Found
Starting with an interesting scene where are Tesla, Edison, and Mark Twain meet with a secret group high up in the relatively new Eiffel Tower, having been invited by Monsieur Eiffel himself. The Tesla story is juxtaposed with a more modern one based around a spy named Darren and his wife who work for a secret arm of the CIA, operating as agents for the shadow government. Darren comes across some old original notes of Tesla’s. What will he do with his findings? Will they put him and his family in danger?
This book is written in the present tense, and in general, I think that is an awkward way to write fiction. And unfortunately, in this case, sometimes the other tenses required to show proper sequence of time weren’t chosen correctly around the ubiquitous present tense; this is one of the pitfalls of using the present tense. That said, this was still an interesting read, making the reader of ponder what unknown knowledge might be hiding out there, who are keeping it secret, and what it could mean if it was known.
In just a total aside . . . Since Mark Twain was the pseudonym of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, I think it would have made an ironic twist to have the members of the secret committee him as Sam instead of Mark.