For years now fantasy and paranormals have ruled the science fiction market. I’m thrilled that recently futuristics and space opera once more have a spot on the shelf. This book takes a look into the far future, when our technology has made space flight and the colonization of faraway planets possible. Unfortunately, it has also increased our capacity for violence.
Kady Grant is in school on Kerenza, an illegal mining colony run by the Ulyanov Consortium. She’s already having a pretty difficult morning since she just broke up with her boyfriend, but then the BeiTech Corporation attacks. Within minutes the planet’s defenses fall and Kady finds herself fleeing for her life with Ezra Mason, her recent ex, riding shotgun in her battered truck. It turns out that not even a life-threatening situation can help them reconcile their differences, though. Almost immediately they find themselves fighting – about Kady’s driving, about whose parent should be picked up first (his dad or her mom) and about all the stuff they had been arguing about to begin with. In spite of their inability to get along though these two prove to be a pretty effective team. They aren’t able to rescue their parents but Kady is able to save Ezra from an attack by some BeiTech soldiers. Both of them make it on board some rescue vessels, although they find themselves separated once in space. Ezra winds up on the Alexandra, a UTA (government) ship that had answered the colony’s distress call. Kady is on board the Hypatia, a research vessel associated with the Ulyanov Consortium. There’s only one other small ship in their fleet, the last remnant of a once thriving community.
You’d think their problems would be all but over at this point in time but that is far, FAR from the case. Their troubles are just getting started. Their rescue ships are severely damaged and they have a BeiTech warship in hot pursuit. Kady and Ezra had both witnessed an odd mist surrounding several structures on the planet and that turns out to be biological warfare. One of the three ships limping away from Kerenza is actually a plague ship now, carrying a virus that spreads rapidly, mutates rapidly and has terrifying results (think Pax from Serenity and Firefly.) As the situation on that ship grows more severe, the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, makes a command decision that leaves the humans on board the Hypatia and Alexandra deeply frightened. And commanders on both ships are clearly lying to the refugees.
Kady refuses to place her destiny in the hands of others and begins to hack into the ships’ systems to learn the truth. She makes some useful new friends in the illicit online community but ultimately it’s clear that the only person with whom she wants to share the dangerous new information she’s uncovering is the young man she swore she would never speak to again.
I really loved the start of this novel. Kady and Ezra are hilarious and they had me laughing out loud several times during the first few pages. They were also very believable. Everything about them seemed genuine and three dimensional so that you felt you were watching a couple of real teens struggling with an end of the world scenario. They also, right from the start, were obviously perfect for each other and clearly completely in love. While the book might start with a breakup we are left in no doubt that a makeup is inevitable.
I also really loved the plot here. The mystery of what is happening with the AI, the identity of who is behind this unprecedented violent attack and just how (or if) this ragtag band of refugees is going to survive makes this book a real page turner. Unfortunately, the conclusion leaves a bit to be desired but getting there was still an intense, joyous ride.
Now we come to my main complaint of the book. As I said, some things about the ending were a letdown but they weren’t my only problem with the story. If this book had been told in a traditional format I think I would have graded it a bit higher. However, it’s told “through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents–including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more”. Some pages include ship designs; others contain single words or odd lines placed in weird patterns. I found it all very disruptive to the story line, to the point that just when things should have been at their most exciting I found myself disengaging from the tale. I also found it highly irritating to have the cuss words blacked out. Either display the language or don’t use it. Having it blacked out seemed juvenile. Believe me, YA readers will be very familiar with the terms almost/somewhat used in this book. Not printing them just forced us to figure out what they were meant to be, which was annoying.
Those irritants and flaws aside, I would still recommend this book to fans of YA romance or science fiction fans. It’s a fun, fresh tale with two characters who are completely delightful. If you can struggle past the format you will find a story well worth reading.