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Amortals (Matt Forbeck)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Amortals is a near future sci-fi thriller that deals with the concept of longevity extending technology and its potential to stagnate society into a dystopia. This is definitely a thriller first and sci-fi second. You won’t get a lot of long winded explanations on society or philosophical spiels on the preciousness of life due to the fact that in every other paragraph the protagonist is tossed around in flying cars, shot at with missiles, or having fistfights. There is definitely a sci-fi component here, and some non fully articulated thoughts on the nature of man, but it’s kept mostly to the margins and serves more as set piece for the protagonist to fight around rather than the driving force of the book. As a thriller it’s good. The characters are interesting enough for you to invest in them without being overly complicated enough to slow down the story, the action is well visualized and exciting with actual tension, and the plot moves along quickly enough that you don’t get bored. I wouldn’t recommend Amortals to every hard sci-fi fan out there, but for someone looking for a quick action thriller with enough sci-fi elements to make you think a bit between fist fights, then I don’t think you’d go wrong with Amortals.

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Insurgent (Veronica Roth)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is the second novel in Roth’s dystopian trilogy with rhyming titles (which Lauren Oliver has also done with Delirium/Pandemonium/Requiem, leaving me to wonder both who is copying whom and what the title of the third in this series might possibly be; the best I can come up with is Detergent).  It picks up right where Divergent left off (I’ll save the spoilers for the next section) and continues to follow Tris as she struggles to understand what being Divergent means for her and where she fits in.  This book has some of the same problems as Divergent, namely leads who are less-well characterized than the excellent supporting cast and too much time spent on the trying, repetitively conflictual love story between them.  And like its predecessor, it has a lot of violence, some graphic, and some light teen sexuality (kissing and touching).  It earns a half-star higher review from me because Roth really comes into her own here; unlike her first book, no one could accuse Insurgent of being a The Hunger Games wannabe.  The plot is all hers, and it’s excellent and well-executed.  I can’t wait for the third in this series, whatever the name may be.

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Posted in Children's/Young Adult

Divergent (Veronica Roth)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
After the huge success of The Hunger Games, several young adult authors came out with US-set dystopian trilogies with teenage female protagonists; many of these appear to have modeled their first books after the first in that series, before branching away in the remaining novels. This is the first of Veronica Roth’s Divergent series, and she builds an interesting, novel (if not entirely believable), dystopian world. She makes the mistake of missing one of the things which made The Hunger Games so remarkable, which was that romance was the last thing on Katniss Everdeen’s mind — not the case here. Despite this, Roth’s heroine, Tris, is a strong character with a clear identity and agenda outside of chasing her man, and the story is intriguing. However, the relationship between Tris and her love interest is frustrating: they have a misunderstanding, vow that there will never be secrets between them again, immediately begin keeping secrets from each other, lather, rinse, repeat. Further, there’s a lot of violence in this book, some quite graphic, so be warned; there’s also some minimal teen sexual activity, mostly kissing and touching. Overall, it was an engaging concept and story with fleshed-out characters and was quite well executed with the exception of the romantic subplot; I’d recommend it for fans of dystopian stories.

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Kop (Warren Hammond)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is a gritty, futuristic, dystopian take on a police mystery.  The characters are strong, brimming with compelling facets to explore, the plot is well put together for such a complicated mystery, and overall the world is well defined and believable even if its not an environment that is particularly fun to spend time in.  There is a main subplot that takes place in the past and is stitched into the narrative awkwardly, but it is what makes most of the characters interesting in the main plot, so its inclusion is essential, and I’m not really sure how it could have been added in a less jarring way.  The  mystery portion is quite complicated and for that reason I wouldn’t recommend the book to anyone with a tendency to lose track when a book has a lot of fairly interchangeable, often dead, minor characters.  I would recommend this book overall, but only if the concept of a dark, dystopian police mystery appeals to you; there isn’t a lot to recommend it besides the main concept of the book.

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