The second installment of the near-future dystopia series begun in The Forsaken (2012) revisits familiar narrative territory, exhibiting the opener’s strengths and weaknesses.
Alenna and Liam have escaped “the wheel,” an island prison camp for teens resistant to the mind-control drugs through which the totalitarian United Northern Alliance rules North America. Now safe in a secret Australian hideout where rebel scientists, including Alenna’s mother, plot the UNA’s overthrow, the two encounter “drones,” other wheel refugees. Alenna and Liam are wary of them, last seen engaging in an orgy of violence, and the feeling is mutual. But these ex-drones have come to their senses—or have they? Betrayed to the UNA, the rebels flee to another refuge in Antarctica, from which they soon depart. When the plot shifts to the wheel, the story feels like a retread of the first book—the same brutally primitive environment laced with deadly weapons, inhabited by mindless drones led by a masked, charismatic leader. The author’s gift for creating vivid action scenes and shaping rubber science into believable form keeps readers engaged, but in quieter moments, the flat characters, contradictions and absurd time frame are impossible to ignore.
The weak worldbuilding strains credulity, but the nifty technology and exciting battle scenes should engage fans of the genre. (Science fiction. 12 & up)