An overlong but reasonably effective dystopian thriller.

GAMESCAPE

OVERWORLD

From the Nova Project series , Vol. 1

A teen gamer plays for his life.

Miguel Anderson is dying. And so is Earth. In this dystopian future the planet is coming undone, and society distracts itself with virtual-reality games. Winning these games earns players rewards, and Miguel is saving up for a new heart to replace his own malfunctioning one. His favorite game is “Chimera.” When its maker announces a new game and seeks out beta testers, Miguel is chosen to work with a team to conquer the game’s 12 levels. Trevayne milks the VR scenes for all they’re worth, crafting elaborate action sequences and a dread-filled mood. Some of it works, but the trouble with setting most of a book in a computer is the constant reminder that none of the threats are real; the attempt to posit the idea that death in a game leads to real-life death doesn’t really get traction. The second half of the novel pivots into a conspiracy thriller when Miguel becomes aware he and his teammates are being manipulated by the godlike game makers, which ratchets up the tension nicely. The novel is overlong, losing its way in the middle, which is essentially just about a person playing a video game, but the final chapters and explosive finale even things out. Race is not mentioned, but naming conventions that mix ethnicities suggest a fairly blended society.

An overlong but reasonably effective dystopian thriller. (Science fiction. 14-17)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-240876-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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A derivative mess.

ASHFALL LEGACY

A half alien teenager sets out for the stars in search of his missing dad.

In what rapidly devolves into a jumble of well-worn science-fiction tropes and typecast settings glued together by adolescent behavior and muddy thinking, the story follows 16-year-old Sydney, who has been on the lam with his gun-toting default-White human mom for 10 years. Syd meets and agrees to join his alien uncle on a training voyage to planet Denza, where he can take classes at the local star fleet academy and find his father, who vanished on an exploratory voyage years before. Syd discovers that all humans become super strong and super tough when they leave Earth—but die when they return. Might his father have come upon a cure hidden among the relics of a…wait for it…mysterious race of vanished galactic overlords? In his typically unsubtle way, the pseudonymous Lore chucks discrimination into the mix too—being a “mutt,” as one hostile shipmate put it, Syd gets a decidedly mixed reception from the specist Denzans, and a fellow hybrid angrily informs him that she identifies as human. Before arbitrarily cutting off midway through, the climax collapses into a glutinous mass of revelations including the fate of Syd’s father and the nature of the aforementioned overlords. Oh, and there are space monsters and a magic ring.

A derivative mess. (Science fiction. 14-17)

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-284536-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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Full of drama, emotional turmoil, and high stakes.

FIREBORNE

From the Aurelian Cycle series , Vol. 1

What happens to the world after the dust from a revolution has settled?

Friends Annie and Lee were children from very different circles when Atreus killed Lee’s father, dragonlord Leon Stormscourge, ending the uprising on the bloodiest day in Callipolis’ history. For too long the dragonriders held all the power while their people starved and lived in fear. Nine years later, a new generation of dragonriders is emerging, children selected and trained on merit, not bloodlines. Their dragons are finally mature enough for them to compete for Firstrider, a position of power that can give Lee back a small part of what his family lost. However, not only is Lee competing against Annie, but rumors are circulating that some of the royal family have survived and have dragons of their own. Everyone will have to make a choice: Restore the old regime, support the First Protector and the new caste system he created, or look for a new way, no matter what the cost. From the beginning, this book pulls readers in with political intrigue and action. What keeps them invested, however, are the complex relationships between many cast members. Choices are complex, and the consequences for all could be deadly. The world is well fleshed out and believable. Annie and Lee are light skinned; secondary characters are diverse, and race is a nonissue in this world.

Full of drama, emotional turmoil, and high stakes. (author’s note) (Fantasy.14-17)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-51821-1

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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