Appetizing flashes of wit and occasional vivid moments leave readers hungry for a real meal.

READ REVIEW

THE BAR CODE PROPHECY

From the Bar Code series , Vol. 3

The third installment of this series about bar-coded humans, set in the near future, gets off to a strong start, but flimsy characterization and slipshod storytelling sink the promising high concept.

Grace can’t wait to get her bar-code tattoo when she turns 17 in two days, but Eric, her crush at the climbing gym, has doubts. He suspects the manufacturer, genetics arm of megacorporation Global-1, may still be releasing malicious nanobots with the tattoos. Grace is sure he’s wrong—her dad works for Global-1, and besides, it’s convenient to have all that encrypted personal information tattooed on your wrist. She learns otherwise when she runs into her father’s colleague Dr. Harriman. Alarmed to see her new tattoo, he tells her to go home immediately, where she finds her family gone and her home invaded by well-armed Global-1 security police. Soon Grace herself lands in the hands of Decode, an underground group opposed to Global-1. This is promising material, but worldbuilding is superficial, and the generic characters are nearly indistinguishable. Substituting action for substance, the frenetic plot serves up dollops of underdeveloped rubber science and vaguely Hopi and Navajo mysticism without investing the effort needed to bring it all to life.

Appetizing flashes of wit and occasional vivid moments leave readers hungry for a real meal. (Science fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-42529-2

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2012

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Not much forward momentum but a tasty array of chills, thrills, and chortles.

A MAP OF DAYS

From the Peculiar Children series , Vol. 4

The victory of Jacob and his fellow peculiars over the previous episode’s wights and hollowgasts turns out to be only one move in a larger game as Riggs (Tales of the Peculiar, 2016, etc.) shifts the scene to America.

Reading largely as a setup for a new (if not exactly original) story arc, the tale commences just after Jacob’s timely rescue from his decidedly hostile parents. Following aimless visits back to newly liberated Devil’s Acre and perfunctory normalling lessons for his magically talented friends, Jacob eventually sets out on a road trip to find and recruit Noor, a powerful but imperiled young peculiar of Asian Indian ancestry. Along the way he encounters a semilawless patchwork of peculiar gangs, syndicates, and isolated small communities—many at loggerheads, some in the midst of negotiating a tentative alliance with the Ymbryne Council, but all threatened by the shadowy Organization. The by-now-tangled skein of rivalries, romantic troubles, and family issues continues to ravel amid bursts of savage violence and low comedy (“I had never seen an invisible person throw up before,” Jacob writes, “and it was something I won’t soon forget”). A fresh set of found snapshots serves, as before, to add an eldritch atmosphere to each set of incidents. The cast defaults to white but includes several people of color with active roles.

Not much forward momentum but a tasty array of chills, thrills, and chortles. (Horror/Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3214-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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Slow off the mark and gratuitously violent but cooking with (nerve) gas by the end.

THE TRIGGER MECHANISM

From the Camp Valor series , Vol. 2

With help from a reclusive billionaire, teen supersoldiers tackle a cyberterrorist in this sequel to Camp Valor (2018).

The main suspense comes from wondering when the chases and firefights are finally going to start. Traumatized by the discovery that he’s been duped into mowing down a crowd of real pedestrians in what he thought was a virtual truck, online gamer Jalen Rose is recruited by Valorian agent and co-protagonist Wyatt to join him in an unauthorized mission to find the instigator, Encyte. There are suspects aplenty. Their patron, tech tycoon John Darsie, points them toward one possibility: his own employee Julie Chen, a brilliant (not to mention “tough and a little boyish, but cute”) 14-year-old gamer and software designer. Despite a series of cyber exploits, including a high-casualty riot fueled by pheromones, there are so many distracting subplots—notably the hunt for a traitor from the first volume, the arrival of a government official who orders the camp shut down because she can’t see the value of a cadre of secretly trained child warriors (go figure), and a developing relationship between Jalen and Julie—that the pedal doesn’t really hit the metal until some time after the real villain makes a tardy first entrance. Jalen is African American and Wyatt is white.

Slow off the mark and gratuitously violent but cooking with (nerve) gas by the end. (Paramilitary thriller. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-08825-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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