Horizon. survival is no game. by Scott Westerfeld. Pub. Scholastic, 2017.
This can only be the beginning of a new series because the end is inconclusive and elusive to the reader who is kept guessing all the way through the novel.
It is a science fiction/adventure novel with survival a major theme and is aimed at intermediate, junior secondary readers.
The novel begins with an unusual airplane crash by an aircraft en route from USA to Japan. In mid flight over the Arctic the aircraft is sliced through from nose to tail by something weird and crashes in a lush and dangerous jungle. How could this be?
Furthermore during the ripping of the fuselage all 500 adults disappeared leaving behind 8 teenagers and there seemed to have been some sort of electric selection system that decided who survived. Could this be true?
The teenagers wonder where they are. The plants and animals seem to indicate they are on Earth but two moon like lights in the sky suggest another planet. As the teenagers face what has happened to them they find an anti gravity device which allows them to explore the surroundings and they encounter a flesh eating vine and birds with razor sharp beaks that hunt in a flock.
Cool heads are needed to get out of this because if they got there, there has to be a way back. Read it and find out.
Imaginatively written by Scott Westerfeld, this series will be a winner.
Nightfall by Jake Halpern & Peter Kujawinski. Pub. Hot key Books, 2015.
This highly original book on survival in a dark world is for teenagers and young adults.
Set on the island of Bliss, a name that is far from the truth because life is far from easy. The island is surrounded by cliffs with no easy access to the sea and the cycle of life is dictated by 14 years of daylight followed by 14 years of darkness. The hinterland is forested and nobody goes there for fear of wild animals, monsters and demons.
The years of daylight are almost at an end and the islanders are preparing to evacuate to the desert lands of the south where the cycle of life is 3 days light and 3 days dark.
Marin and Kana are 14 year old twins, both share a friend in Line but the relationship is changing as Line notices Marin’s curves and she notices his muscles. The islanders are going through a ritualistic preparation to leave. They are cleaning their houses, removing locks and setting tables with heavy plates. There is talk of spirits and monsters coming with the dark and an urgency to leave before the night falls and the sea withdraws.
Through circumstances that you will have to read the book to find out, Marin, Kana and Line are left behind on the island and on their first night alone they learn that what their parents and elders said was true.
Then in an unexpected surrealistic twist in the plot Kana takes his boots off and discovers an astonishing transformation.
Tensions are high and the action swift and often brutal. If you have a fear of the dark then this book is not going to make it easy for you. Confront your fears and read one of the most absorbing novels I have read for a while.
Great cover and structured in short easy to read chapters that make you want to keep reading. If you miss this you will kick yourself.
Boy X by Dan Smith. Pub Chicken House, 2016.
This is an easy to read action/ survival thriller set in a research Lab on an island covered in a deadly jungle.It is aimed at high school students and intermediate aged readers
Ash is about 16 years old and he awakes in a bed in the research laboratory with memories of a man called Thorn having stabbed him in the neck with a needle. He goes looking for his scientist mother and stumbles into a heap of action including a helicopter crash.
He meets Isabel, an Hispanic girl whose father is also a scientist and together they make their way to the laboratory where Ash’s mother and Isabel’s father are sealed in. They learn that both have been injected by a lethal virus called Kronos which has the potential to destroy the World.
Fortunately there is an antidote but some villains have taken both the virus and antidote and fled across the dense jungle to a boat on the other side of the island. Isabel and Ash need to stop the virus from leaving the island and to get back to their mother and father to give them the antidote.
They have 24 hours to do so. The countdown is on, the psychopathic Thorn is after them, and the jungle has terrors of its own. Not only that, Ash has developed heightened senses and can see, hear and smell things miles away. He is also stronger, heals quickly and can move like a vampire.
Read the rest and find out what happens. It is thrilling.
Shooting Stars by Brian Falkner. Pub. Scholastic, 2016.
“You who are on the road must have a code that you can live by” these lyrics from a 1970 Crosby Stills and Nash song ran through my mind as I was reading this superb novel.
Egan and his Moma have lived in the remote forests and bush of the Coromandal Peninsula for 15 years since Moma fled from an abusive husband with Egan as a baby. She taught him well, bringing him up on a code that is not unique- based on the Golden Rule, and written by every philosopher from Socrates to Fred Dagg. Egan is well read and wants to be a writer, Hemmingway and Steinbeck are favourites. Some of his stories are spread throughout the novel. The Code works well in the bush where there are no other humans, until Egan meets D.O.C. deer culler J.T. Hunter.
Egan and his dog Jack like J.T. and they learn much from each other, then Moma goes missing. Egan looks for clues in his mother’s papers and this takes him to Auckland. This is part 2 of the novel with Egan describing Auckland as a bonfire that needs constant feeding. He learns to live with the street kids and finds violence and love. He could survive anything but The Code by which he has lived is sorely tested.
Part 3 tells the father’s story and Egan learns what celebrity status means. The Code is further tested and broken. I would ruin it for you if I told you anything else.
Falkner narrates the story in diary form through Egan from December to March and it is totally compelling. The wit, the humour, the characterisation and the flow of the novel are strong traits of all Falkner’s novels, this is no exception. I was mesmerised from start to finish and you will be too. It is a triumph for motherhood.
Mention must be made of the cover, it is outstanding, any reader can see what the novel is going to do from the cover. The best I have seen for a long time.
Would be a great text for students from year 9 – 11 and great reading for everyone else. My book of the year so far.
NB this novel will be released for standing orders in October 2016 with general release November.
The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry. Pub. HarperCollins, 2016.
Of all the eras of human habitation on this planet the one that I would least liked to have lived in is the medieval period when the power of the church was at it’s highest and most vicious.
In this novel for senior students and young adults Julie Berry has created that medieval world with all its poverty, cruelty and religious fervour. Once I had become fond of the characters who are largely female, young, clever and questioning I was scared witless of what fate may become them. You will too.
Dolssa is the key character who believes god speaks to her and through her and she refers to him as her beloved. This brings her into conflict with the Inquisitors who see heresy spreading and spoiling the vineyard of the lord. This role is played by Lucien de Saint-Honore who wishes to destroy anything that conflicts with the teachings of the church and believes that this will please the blessed Saviour.
After watching her mother burnt at the stake by Lucien, 13 year old Dolssa flees and is eventually rescued by teenager Botille an arranger of marriages and her sisters Plazensa who is a prostitute and Sazia who can read fortunes. The girls hide Dolssa from the Inquisitors and this brings drama and danger into their lives.
You will have to read the novel to find out more and believe me it is captivating reading.
Narrated by Dolssa, Botille and Lucien mainly but other characters do contribute. Chapters are short and the writing is lofty and crude at the same time in line with the characters of the Medieval period. A superb piece of writing.
The final exciting action packed novel of the 5th Wave Series for teenagers and young adults.
The series that began with the intrusion of a pregnant woman by a shadow from an owl which turned out to be a 10,000 year old alien without a body continues with 99.9% of humans slaughtered by the aliens. Now remains the moping up operations, the 5th Wave, with humans containing the alien presence killing everyone they meet. In fact everybody is killing everybody.
The world the survivors live in is violent, and death is always a heart beat away It is easier to kill a person than it is to tie your shoe laces and the only hope for humans is that they live long enough for their deaths to matter. There is a teddybear in the story to remind us that we reading about human beings.
Cassie, Ben now called Zombie, Ringer, Nugget, Sam and Megan plus the turncoat alien in human form Evan Walker exist and battle in the last 4 days of Earth. At the end of 4 days the huge alien mothrship that sits in all it’s greenery in the skies will unleash bombs on every city left on Earth to complete the elimination of humans.
Read this and find out if it all occurs. Is there any hope? Will all of the characters whose agonies we live through survive? Masterly written by Rick Yancey with a sense of humour that is bizarre but a believable.
You will not put this down once you start.
Into the World by Ted Dawe. Pub Mangakino University Press, 2016. http://www.teddawe.com.
This sequel to the award winning and controversial Into the River is tuff, raw, emotional, at times unbelievable but always riveting. It continues the descent into hell of innocent Maori boy Te Arepa who has morphed into the devious but likeable Public school educated Devon Santos.
Expelled from school this novel starts 10 minutes after Into the River with Devon deciding to stay in Auckland and not go back to his Whanau. Big mistake.
Devon contacts his school mate Mitch who is now the gopher or bitch to Rebel who is a skinhead and into drugs, midnight autos and the seedy street life. Devon finds work and accommodation with Martin and his wife Gail and learns what it is like to be used.
When that ends he is taken in by Mitch and the skinheads and it is all downhill. Prison is the inevitable ending but you know that Devon has been unlucky, he has been dealt a bad hand.
A new Corrections Department initiative throws Devon a lifeline and he grabs it with both hands and is taken in by a rich philanthropic rich man called Wes. Life begins to look sweet for Devon, he is intelligent, willing and adaptable. Then he meets Ella. The rest is dramatic reading.
Superbly written by Ted Dawe in three parts with short sharp chapters. The story moves fast like the cars Devon drives and the street talk and dialogue is a feature of the novel.
The question that is asked is does Devon really have a chance in life? School alienated him from his culture and whanau and in this book he still hides his Maori upbringing. What options does he have after prison? Can any one be totally rehabilitated? Does society give Devon or any prisoner for that matter, a chance?
Ted Dawe throws up a lot of social issues. The role of father is a massive issue in this novel both for boys and girls. I like his style, but some may not. Whatever you think it is damn good writing.
Certainly senior secondary and young adult.