Harry Potter and Star Wars tossed in a blender: it’s not particularly fresh or innovative, but it’s a passable enough...

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RECRUITS

From the Recruits series , Vol. 1

Twins Dillon and Sean discover their childhood fantasy of an otherworldly train station is reality and their gateway to a new life in a galactic civilization.

The 17-year-old Raleigh-Durham white boys have been drawing the station for 10 years. When Col. Carver, a battle-scarred, brown-skinned new neighbor, shows them how to travel there using a magical force within themselves, the duo’s eager to pass his tests and train to use their powers. However, Earth’s a seldom-visited outpost planet in the Human Assembly; and the test administrator, a black man named Tirian, is set against their passing any tests. Although the boys are attacked twice by inimical forces, Carver and his superiors don’t believe the boys’ account of events because of what it means to interplanetary peace; they blame Tirian, who becomes a wanted man. Though the boys are much older and more powerful than the other students, they enter the school formerly administered by Tirian to train, prove their story, and clear their former adversary’s name. Though marketed as sci-fi, Locke’s trilogy-starter is more fantasy the likes of the early Pern novels by Anne McCaffrey. Science is supplanted by a magical faith/force (though the faith is not necessarily Christian). Though the plot is slow and logically muddy at times, the twins’ banter feels real, and these sparks carry the tale of good vs. evil to a successful, if a bit anticlimactic, close.

Harry Potter and Star Wars tossed in a blender: it’s not particularly fresh or innovative, but it’s a passable enough second-tier purchase. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8007-2789-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Revell

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.

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SCYTHE

From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 1

Two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.

On post-mortal Earth, humans live long (if not particularly passionate) lives without fear of disease, aging, or accidents. Operating independently of the governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), scythes rely on 10 commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population. After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty. The vivid and often violent action unfolds slowly, anchored in complex worldbuilding and propelled by political machinations and existential musings. Scythes’ journal entries accompany Rowan’s and Citra’s dual and dueling narratives, revealing both personal struggles and societal problems. The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions.

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7242-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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Fear the reaper(s)…but relish this intelligent and entertaining blend of dark humor and high death tolls.

THUNDERHEAD

From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 2

Death proves impermanent in this sequel to Scythe (2016).

In a world run by the (almost) all-powerful and (almost) omniscient artificial intelligence Thunderhead, only the Honorable Scythes deal permanent death to near-immortal humans. Yet a growing contingent of scythes, feared and flattered by society and operating outside the Thunderhead’s control, are proving rather dishonorable. No longer apprentices, 18-year-olds Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch realize “the scythedom is…high school with murder” as they watch their fellow scythes jockey for power and prestige. Citra now gleans as Scythe Anastasia, questioning the status quo but also opposing the homicidally enthusiastic “new-order” scythes and their dangerous demagogue. Self-appointed as Scythe Lucifer, Rowan hunts other scythes whom he deems corrupt. Meanwhile, the existentially troubled Thunderhead questions its role as both creation and caretaker of humanity, sworn not to take life but fearing that its utopia will otherwise collapse into dystopia. Nationality and race are minimally mentioned—ethnic biases and genocide are considered very gauche—yet a population that defies death, aging, sickness, poverty, and war risks becoming bleakly homogenous, alleviated only by “unsavories” and scythes. This sequel digs deeper into Shusterman’s complex world and complicated characters, offering political maneuvering, fatal conspiracies, and impending catastrophe via a slowly unfurling plot and startling bursts of action.

Fear the reaper(s)…but relish this intelligent and entertaining blend of dark humor and high death tolls. (Science fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7245-7

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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