• Dan

#BookReviews #Scifi #Thriller #YA



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Today on the blog, I review an eclectic mix of speculative literature. One novel is by one of my favorite authors, another I picked up after reading a recommendation from BookBub, and one story I ran across while researching stories appropriate for my son.


 

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Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi

Synopsis

Scalzi transports us to his ever-exciting Old Man's War universe for a retelling of The Last Colony from a teen's perspective. Aliens, adventure, and young love abound in Zoe's Tale, a yarn sure to delight Scalzi fans and is an excellent entry point for young adult readers interested in his brand of witty sci-fi.

My thoughts

Old Man's Mar and The Ghost Brigade are science fiction classics. The Last Colony is quite excellent, too, if not at the same exalted level of its predecessors. The rest of the series, at least for this reader, is more…well, meh.

I read all the other books in the Old Man's War universe before finally picking up Zoe's Tale several years later. After reading The Last Colony, I didn't want to read a retelling of the same story immediately. Well, I was mistaken. Zoe's Tale is fantastic and reminds me how witty, moving, and exciting Scalzi's writing is at its best.

What can the inspiring author learn?

With Zoe's Tale, Scalzi demonstrates one key to a compelling story is a fantastic protagonist. Zoe is just that. She is engaging, stubborn, snarky, a true friend, an angsty teen, and brave. Readers who enjoy Scalzi's witty writing will find the fact Zoe's Tale is a retelling of The Last Colony immaterial. That's how captivating a character Zoe is. How he accomplishes this is worthy of attention.


Hide by Kiersten White

abandoned amusement park

Synopsis

Hide reads like a mashup of Squid Game and The Hunger Games with a sprinkling of the supernatural to add a bit of terror. A group of down-on-their-luck competitors is offered a large cash prize for winning a game of hide and seek in an abandoned amusement park.

My Thoughts

Hide is a good read if an uneven one. The protagonist, Mack, is a flawed, sympathetic, and ultimately a compelling character. However, the story is hampered by scenes told in the narrative voices of the competitors. These characters do not have as persuasive backstories as Mack, and many are downright unlikeable. This reader found some scenes from the perspective of these characters swampy slogs.

What can the inspiring author learn?

White shows us that turning an innocent childhood game on its head can make for a compelling plot. This gimmick is worthy of consideration by aspiring authors.

Feed by M.T. Anderson

microchip

Synopsis

What happens to society, to humanity, when chips are implanted directly into our brains giving us instantaneous access to a huge wealth of knowledge and corporations direct access to our thoughts?

My Thoughts

I picked up Feed after researching books for my sixth-grade son to read. I came across a website listing books for students to read by grade. Feed showed up in the 12th-grade reading list. Determining it was a science-fiction, I decided to pick it up. I'm glad I did.

Feed is one of the most immersive stories I've ever read. It warns about society through technology becoming too detached from humanity and calls out the dangers of consumerism run amok. Be forewarned, this is a depressing tale, not a hopeful one. The characters are compelling but are not easy to like. In all honesty, this is one of the best books I've read this year, maybe the best.

What can the inspiring author learn?

Anderson's use of language is masterful. His carefully chosen words create an immersive reading experience. Anyone interested in or who writes YA should read this book today to study how he accomplishes this.

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