“Calamity” by Brandon Sanderson (Tor, 2016)


In the final volume of the Reckoners trilogy things come to a close in an acceptable way. The group has been pushed to the brink and while they’re licking their wounds, they must face their former leader, Prof, who has now gone to the dark side of being an epic.

The Reckoners travels will take them across the country to the interesting city of Babilar (once Atlanta) that moves along and rebuilds itself constantly. There they will have a showdown with their former member and will somehow have to beat him. David believes he knows Prof’s weakness. He also has another card: Firefight aka Megan aka David’s girlfriend is proof that when an epic is pushed to the brink they don’t always turn evil; it is possible to come back.

She also has this incredible ability to open portals into a parallel world where there is no Calamity in the sky that causes all the problems. Things in this parallel world are different and the epics appear to be mostly good in nature. So David knows a world without Calamity, the ultimate epic, is a good thing. So in addition to bringing down Prof, he also needs to take care of Calamity and save the world. Just another ordinary day for him and the Reckoners.

Calamity has the same feel at times as the first two books, but is certainly a lot darker, bleaker and more intense, but then this is the final showdown and who knows who’s going to make it out alive. There is a lot of traveling around again, which can get a little boring at times for the reader. But the final payoff with the Calamity showdown is well worth it, as a surprising end is reached that leaves the reader fully satisfied.

Originally written on March 25th, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Calamity from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Hostage” by Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith (Book View Cafe, 2015)


The second book in The Change quartet, after Stranger, does a lot of things the second book in the series should: opening the world further, adding some new and interesting characters, and raising the stakes to a whole new level that keeps the reader on the edge of their seat.

The sheltered town of Las Anclas is still licking its many wounds from the attack by King Voske of Gold Point. They expect another possible attack but have no idea when, but as Ross Juarez is out on a routine mission with some friends, a team has been sent out by Voske and captures him. He is brought back to Gold Point and shown a world where the changed are respected and at times revered. But this is also a harsh place run by the iron first of Voske; for those who do not follow these ways, they are crushed and ended without question. Las Anclas returns the favor by kidnapping the Voske’s daughter, Kerry, who learns of the very different world and place that is Las Anclas.

Will either side be willing to make an even exchange for the two? Not likely. So the hostage situation will have to be resolved in some other way, that will likely involve bloodshed. But each side has their own people with their own special powers that can be put to use. The final decision will ultimately rest on Kerry’s shoulders: after seeing the good and bad in both Las Anclas and Gold Point, she will have to make her choice and choose a side.

Originally written on March 25th, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Hostage from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Stranger” by Sherwood Smith and Rachel Manija Brown (Viking Books for Young Readers, 2014)

Stranger
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Welcome to the quaint little town of Las Anclas, located on the edge of nowhere. It’s a frontier town with high surrounding walls and guards constantly watching from above. Interestingly, those guards are all ages from teenagers to adults, and they all look like they know how to handle those weapons they’re carrying.

In this harsh world, places like Las Anclas are necessary refuges. You’re either a normal human or a mutant who is “Changed,” giving you special powers and abilities. There are those who will respect you for being different and others who will despise you, even inside those safe town walls, so watch your back.

Ross Juarez has just escaped death from a bounty hunger and the lethally dangerous crystalline trees and has made it to Las Anclas, seeking refuge. There he will make friends, but also enemies. He is also in possession of a special ancient book written in a language he can’t read.

Stranger is one of the few post-apocalyptic young adult books to earn its place next to Hunger Games. The diversity of the cast make this made-up world a completely believable one. The science fiction elements leave you shivering with fright, but also wanting to understand more. By the end of the book, you’ll be looking for the sequel; fortunately there is one.

Originally written on March 19, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Stranger from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Homeland” by Cory Doctorow (Tor, 2013)

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After the traumatic events of the bestselling Little Brother, Cory Doctorow returns with the sequel in Homeland, as Marcus Yallow finds himself in a harsh world where the government is always watching and waiting.  His time being detained has scarred him in some ways — though not as bad as some of his friends — so that he is now less trusting than ever.  But he also knows that while the truth may not set or keep him free, getting it out to the masses is more important.

Homeland opens with an entertainingly fantastic chapter where Marcus is at Burning Man for the first time in his life, which Doctorow describes with such detail that it seems as if he may have been once or twice himself.  It culminates in a Dungeons & Dragons session with the founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and actor Wil Wheaton.  Marcus also comes across an old enemy and comes into possession of a flash drive with some very incendiary information.

Back in San Francisco, life is the same with Marcus’s parents out of work, as well as himself, with everyone trying to get by in this terrible economic climate.  Marcus gets a job offer he can’t refuse: working as the webmaster and tech guy for a candidate running as an independent for the California Senate, looking to change the world and make it a better place.  So things start to look up for a little while, but Marcus has to make the decision about what to do with the flash drive.  It contains a torrent address and password that lets him download gigs of information on the corruption in the government, hard proof of what they have perpetrated, how they have tortured, under the guise of protecting the American people.  Marcus will have to decide if his safety and health are worthy sacrifices for getting this information out to the people.

Doctorow keeps the thrill running just like he did with Little Brother, putting Marcus into tight spot after tight spot, using his friends when he can, but also knowing the risks of putting them in danger.  Doctorow also does a great job of using cutting edge technology to make the story feel a little futuristic, but at the same time completely plausible.  Fans will be sucked into Homeland and kept going until the last page, hoping for a possible future continuation to this chapter in the story of Marcus Yallow.

Originally written on April 27, 2013 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Homeland from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Pirate Cinema” by Cory Doctorow (Tor Teen, 2012)

Pirate Cinema
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After the success of Little Brother and For the Win, bestselling author Cory Doctorow returns with another young adult novel about an oppressed youth who is looking to change the world for the better in an uncertain near future.  This time Doctorow jumps across the pond to Britain, where he spends a good portion of his time, and writes about the subject of internet piracy.

In a near future, Trent McCauley is a smart sixteen year-old who does his school work but spends most of his time downloading videos of a fictitious celebrity and creating vids about him using clips from all the movies the person has been in, telling a specific story, usually played to music.  He has a lot of fun doing it and there’s definitely an artwork and talent to it.  Then the internet is cut off in the household under the recent law for internet piracy, and the family is now severed from the internet at home for a whole year; which is really important.  Trent’s sister needs it to do all her school work, she simply won’t pass her classes without it; his mother needs it to get support for her medical condition; and his father needs it because he’s unemployed, and needs to claim his unemployment checks, as well as look for jobs.  It puts the family in a dire situation, with Trent feeling really guilty about the whole thing.

So he does what any teenager would logically do: he runs away from home.  He arrives in London with high hopes of living on the street, which are soon dashed when his belongings are stolen and he finds himself hungry and terribly alone, and wondering if he’s made a terrible mistake.  But he soon makes some new friends who show him the ropes and how to get by pretty easily in London, eventually leading them to squat in an abandoned pub, where they get the power back on, the internet going, and life begins to go pretty well.

Their goal is to have lots of movie viewing parties via a secret internet website that gets people together, to support the vid-making industry and create awareness about what they’re doing and why it isn’t wrong and shouldn’t be illegal.  They’re also looking to fight back against the passing of a recent law in Parliament that is now imprisoning teenagers and children for internet piracy.  Their numbers begin to grow, and gain support; the question is how they are going to make this change happen, without coming off as a radical group of homeless people.

Pirate Cinema feels a lot like the British version of Little Brother, as Doctorow has done his work with how the government works and how the internet is used and perceived in Britain.  He even goes so far as to use a British vernacular, with plenty of slang thrown in.  The weakness of the book is in the conflicts and issues the main character has to deal with.  Trent definitely gets himself into some direct situations and problems, but they’re never really that hard or tough, and he always gets out of it real easy.  It still makes for an enjoyable story that is lacking in potential dramatic tension.  Readers — especially teens — will nevertheless enjoy the book for what it’s trying to do.

Originally written on December 5, 2012 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Pirate Cinema from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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“The Death Cure” by James Dashner (Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2011)

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In the final book of the Maze Runner trilogy, James Dashner brings readers once again to a whole new part of his world, this time a look into an actual city outside of WICKED, where readers finally get to see if what they’ve been told so far is at all true and how harsh this Flare virus really is.  Just as with Maze Runner and Scorch Trials, Dashner continues to delve out one surprise and plot twist after another, keeping the reader on the edge of their seat with sheer excitement.

Thomas is now on the outside with the Gladers that are still alive, having been told by WICKED that the trials are over and the time for lies is no longer; now it’s time to see if all this work was worth it.  But he’s sick of waiting around for something that might or might not happen, and will the help of some others, they flee the WICKED confines for a slice of the real, Flare-ridden world.  It is a harsh place of haves and have nots, where society is crucially divided by those who are infected or not.  Then there are those, like Thomas, who are immune and are hated by some, revered by others.  But as the Gladers memories are given back to them, Thomas starts to remember a lot more than WICKED expected, and knows what he was involved in, which horrifies him, as he finally comprehends what WICKED is truly about.  As things come to a climax and Thomas realizes now what he must do, he must make the ultimate decision.

For the first three quarters of The Death Cure, the surprise and action is going at full steam, and as it approaches the end, things wind down a little and the finale arrives and is revealed.  It seems a little anticlimactic, after this lengthy build-up of three books that may leave some readers wondering: “Wait, why did they go through all this again?”  Nevertheless, for other readers it will feel satisfying and complete.

Originally written on April 24, 2012 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Death Cure from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Scorch Trials” by James Dashner (Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2010)

Scorch Trials
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In the sequel to the interesting Maze Runner, James Dashner takes readers to a whole new level of his dystopian world, where they get to see what’s going on beyond the “maze,” and what state the world is really in.  The Scorch Trials continues to do what its predecessor did so well: build up moments to big surprises, and continue to do this throughout the book so that the reader has no idea what’s going to happen next.

At the end of the last book, it was revealed that the whole “maze thing” was a grand experiment to find out who of these children would be the possible savior of the human race.  Now everyone thinks the work is done and they can finally go back to having a normal sense of life, especially Thomas; also they might finally find out about their families and their past.  But this doesn’t happen, as the group soon finds themselves left alone once more, and this time they are challenged to travel a great distance in a specific amount of time.  They are running both against the clock and against the other “girl group,” where whoever wins will be allowed to survive and live.  They must now travel across this scorched land, which has been blighted over time by sun flares, while the virus known as the Flare has ravaged the population.  There are also these zombie-like people known as Cranks, at a stage of infection far along with the virus, who present a formidable obstacle to the group.  Now Thomas will have to use what he has learned in the maze, as well as the knowledge he already has to get them all through this alive, somehow.

The Scorch Trials does what a good sequel should do, in ratcheting up the tension and the fear, as readers don’t know who is going to make it to the end, and who will be left dead in the dirt.  It’s a harsh world, and this is supposedly all being done to find the perfect human being who will save them all, at least according to WICKED.  Dashner continues to deliver plot twists and cliffhangers that will have readers gripping the pages to the very end and then anxiously awaiting the conclusion in The Death Cure.

Originally written on April 23, 2012 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Scorch Trials from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.