A journalist interviews a teenager who’s been institutionalized his whole life for his parents’ crimes in Chapman’s (33 Bones, 2011, etc.) sci-fi-infused thriller.
Evelyn Jones, writing for C22 Revival Magazine, has exclusive access to an inmate named Alex Gunn. The teenager has been a resident of the Bloodworth School for Young Offenders since he was mere days old, paying for his parents’ sins. His father, Thomas, is infamous for orchestrating a series of devastating explosions that killed thousands of British citizens back in May 2113, and his mother was a reputed accomplice. Initially, Alex is unresponsive to Evelyn’s questions. She suspects that he’s being mistreated, as she spots a scar on his neck; she also guesses that headmaster James Bloodworth is monitoring the interview. The journalist and her subject bond, and soon Evelyn is visiting the school three days a week. Alex’s 18th birthday is fast approaching, at which point Bloodworth will transfer him to a prison. But Evelyn, who believes Alex’s life is in danger, has other plans. It turns out that she has secrets of her own, involving herself, Alex, and a mission that could result in quite a few deaths before it’s over. Chapman’s tale is split into two distinct parts: Evelyn and Alex at the Bloodworth School, followed by a shocking turn that amps up the tension and action. Indeed, the story thrives on surprises, which include unexplained but snazzy sci-fi technology. Readers may be as baffled as Alex by some plot developments; even the narrative itself acknowledges this when the teen’s terror is, at one point, “replaced by utter disbelief and confusion. What was happening? How was this even possible?” Some readers, in fact, will want more answers than they receive in this installment (such as the reason why Alex is so important to Evelyn’s plans), but Chapman leaves these for planned later volumes. Still, this one offers some nuanced details, such as the fact that the much-despised Thomas Gunn’s name has become an expletive in modern society.
A series starter with impressive momentum and a puzzle that will bring readers back for future volumes.