Book: Light

"Light"

All eyes are on Perdido Beach. The barrier wall is now as clear as glass and life in the FAYZ is visible for the entire outside world to see. Life inside the dome remains a constant battle and the Darkness, away from watchful eyes, grows and grows…

The society that Sam and Astrid have struggled so hard to build is about to be shattered for good. Who will survive to see the light of day?

I liked the Aftermath chapters more than the ones leading up to it, to be quite honest. But overall, I’m just really happy that this series is finally done with, and that I can finally start forgetting about the characters.

Which is sad, really. I started this series with such high hopes. I liked the characters in Gone, more so because of their flaws. But when their flaws became too overpowering, and when there became too many characters, well, I sort of just gave up on it. Well, not really. Had I actually given up, I would have probably stopped reading by the third book.

Now, I don’t discount the fact that the book was engaging. It is. It’s just also really frustrating, because you feel like the characters are not growing at all. And the characters you’ve been told to care for, the ones who you have been following, are suddenly disposable. (Yes, I am talking about Connie Temple, and Dahra, and the Artful Roger. And yes, I also know that only one died from the three people I mentioned. That doesn’t mean they weren’t treated distastefully. Disrespectfully.)

I guess Michael Grant has done his job well, because he’s getting this kind of ire from me. But I didn’t want to feel ire. I wanted escape. I wanted a good story. I wanted characters to care for.

At the end of it all, the only character I cared about was Edilio. Maybe Lana. Maybe Diana. But Edilio is the only one who you can truly call a well-written character.

The problem really, and I’ve been saying this since the third book, is that there are way too many characters. You cannot root for a group of kids, unless you treat them as one unit. And I think the author didn’t want to do that, because that wouldn’t be true. Which is true. A group of kids as a unit would mean they are all on one side. When they aren’t. Which would be fine, if there weren’t two all-powerful almost-deities also fighting for control.

Had I been writing this series, there probably wouldn’t be six books. Just four. Book one was good as it is. Books two and three could have been combined, ending with the two sides of moofs joining forces to fight against the Darkness. Books four and five would’ve also joined together as the Darkness used the non-powered humans against the empowered ones. Ending with the birth of Gaia. The last book would start with the fight against Gaia, but would deal with the actual repercussions of what happened more. The Aftermath chapters would be longer, for sure.

We’ve seen a lot of useless characters take up pages and time when characters that needed development could have been given their due.

Connie Temple should have been a bigger character, the disintegration of her relationship with Sam deserved page space, and should not have been a throwaway line.

With the haphazard way the book was ended, I felt disrespected. As if, after spoon-feeding me information, the writer didn’t trust that I would be able to understand why so-and-so happened. That I wouldn’t be able to accept why this happened and that didn’t.

Damn right, I didn’t. Because I was not shown why. I was just told that it happened. That’s very lazy writing, if you ask me. And after sticking with this series for six books, I feel like I deserve better.

So as I close the last page of this book, I say good bye. And may I forget that I ever laid eyes on this series. That I ever started reading it.

Book: Fear

"Fear"

Despite the hunger, despite the lies, even despite the plague, the kids of Perdido Beach are determined to survive. Creeping into the tenuous new world they’ve built, though, is perhaps the worst incarnation yet of the enemy known as the Darkness: fear.

Within the FAYZ, life breaks down while the Darkness takes over, literally–turning the dome-world of the FAYZ entirely black. A will to survive and a desire to take care of those they love endures in this ravage band, even in the bleakest moments. But in darkness, the worst fears of all emerge, and the cruelest of intentions are carried out. After so many months, is all about to be lost in the FAYZ?

To be quite honest, the only reason I’m even finishing this series is because I’ve already invested in it. That said, I do think Fear is better than the last three books. Which would make Gone (the first book) and Fear, the only decent ones in the series.

Not that any of my previous problems with the series actually goes away. I’m still annoyed that we keep getting introduced to new characters who ups and dies anyway. I get that there’s a need for death, because it’s dystopian on speed. But it doesn’t really have much of an emotional impact if the characters that get killed off are characters you’ve only just met.

The ensemble cast still doesn’t gel. And by that, I mean we’re still following way too many stories–even though it’s the second the last book and things need to get tidied up soon.

And the characters still flip flop from between being a good guy and a bad guy. Which is really frustrating. You can’t even trust your heroes to do what you expect them to do. Every book, they do something so out of character that it’s actually starting to become a trait now.

What worked for the book though was the new elements: the countdown made sense again, as by the end of the book, a major thing does happen to the world our characters inhabit. and then, there’s the outside world where we finally see what happened to all the other people who were ejected by the FAYZ.

It really helps the book that the end game is upon it. There’s really no need to stretch storyline anymore.

Little Pete is still being an annoying jackass, more so now that he’s an omniscient presence. And I still don’t get, three days in, what his deal is with the avatars and his meddling with people’s DNA. It doesn’t move the story along, aside from add to the fear factor, and after the couple of victims die, you don’t even fear for any of the main characters’ life as they’re obviously safe from whatever the author would think of next.

Which brings me to a point of consternation.

Does Michael Grant love his characters too much? Because there are times when a writer really should learn to let go. And really, if he’s going for emotional deaths, nothings crushes a heart more than a beloved character dying.

Just ask Joss Whedon.

Having said all that, let’s go ’round the ‘net to find out what other people have said about this book:
The Book Smugglers
Realm of Fiction
Cuddlebuggery

Book: Plague

"Plague"

A highly contagious, fatal illness is spreading at an alarming rate, while sinister, preadtory insects terrorize Perdido Beach. Sam, Astrid, Diana, and Caine are plagued by a growing doubt that they’ll escape–or even survive–life in the FAYZ. With so much turmoil surrounding them, what desperate choices will they make when it comes to saving themselves and those they love?

I hated it for the most part. And then things picked up near the end–and now, well, the excerpt for the fifth book has me looking forward to reading Fear. But that doesn’t change the way I feel about the Gone series–and this book in particular.

I feel like the premise and the promise of the series went to waste. Of course, not being the writer, I could be off-mark and this might be what author Michael Grant had in mind from the moment he started writing the first book. I must say though, this is not where I thought the book would go.

My chagrin remains with the Darkness. Now on the fourth book, this villain just feels so out of touch with the whole community aspect of the series. It does play a bigger role this time round though, and it does manage to push the action a little fast–but I still can’t feel any threat. Especially since we have Little Pete, a character who isn’t just invincible–he can make anything appear and disappear at will. He’s that powerful.

And at this point, I’ve completely lost my empathy for any of the lead characters. The only one I’m left rooting for, from the original book, are Lana and Edilio. Major characters in their own way, but not really the focus of the story.

That brings me to another complain: while Gone had a great handle on the ensemble cast of characteres, author Michael Grant seemed to have lost that grasp in the succeeding books. It’s weakest with Lies, but Plague is barely any better.

It’s a bad thing when I’m cheering on the villain to kill characters, just so the story could have a better focus.

On the plus side, Plague finally does move the plot along with regards to the barrier that surrounds the FAYZ. And that’s the only good thing I can say about this book.

Of course, I might just be a cynical and jaded old geezer. Other people have other opinions. Let’s check those out:
Overflowing Heart Reviews
Icey Books
Living in Fiction

Book: Lies

"Lies"

It happened in one night: a girl who died now walks among the living; Zil and the Human Crew set fire to Perdido Beach, and amid the flames and smoke, Sam sees the figure of the boy he fears the most: Drake. But Drake is dead — or so they thought.

Perdido Beach burns and battles rage: Astrid against the Town Council; the Human Crew versus the mutants; and Sam against Drake, who is back from the dead and ready to finish where he and Sam left off. They say that death is a way to escape the FAYZ. But are the kids of Perdido Beach desperate enough to believe that death will set them free?

Lies is the third book of Michael Grant’s Gone series, but I could’ve been fooled. What happened to the greatness I saw in Gone? Or the promise that was in Hunger? Lies falters in every way, and it doesn’t even feel like part of the Gone series.

After the events of Hunger, where the gaiaphage (also known as the Darkness) was defeated and Drake was finally killed, I was really hoping that author Michael Grant would now move on to more important things: like the discrimination issue, the ideal civilization that some characters wanted to build, the problems of leading a kid civilization, how they got stuck into the FAYZ (which stands for Fall-out Alley Youth Zone). Instead, we get a retread of Hunger, with a less likeable cast of returning characters, and a host of new ones who will probably die in the next book anyway.

And then there’s Alberto. After being set up as this ambitious power player in the second book, you’d think he’d play more into the events of Lies–but no. Save for one key moment with him and Quinn, you don’t even notice he’s there at all! Come to think of it, save from Astrid, none of the major players in the first two books seemed to have done anything at all.

This book feels like filler. Instead of moving the plot forward, we get another battle with the gaiaphage–whose first appearance already tips you off of its identity before it could be revealed as a twist in the end. Again, Little Pete and the gaiaphage battle it out with their powers, which runs under the main plot of Sam having a dilemma with his position as leader (again), of the humans versus mutants issue (still), and Caine’s bid for survival.

Actually, the only thing of note in this book is Caine’s group moving from Coates Academy to one of the islands. It’s basically set up for when Caine returns as a major villain. Oh, and it also introduces yet another psychotic villain who might replace Diana in the next books. Which I think is highly unnecessary.

Putting down Lies, I must say that I am not looking forward to reading the fourth book in the series. While Gone and Hunger didn’t differ much in terms of quality, and that was okay, I felt Lies should’ve started building up on what the first two books have already set up. But it doesn’t.

Author Michael Grant keeps introducing new characters into the mix, diluting what made the premise of Gone so interesting in the first place: a core group of kids take action into shaping up a new civilization as the one they’re used to falls apart. Instead we just another fantasy novel about kids with powers battling a force greater than them, and arguing during the rest periods from the war.

I hope that, in the fourth book, the author finally stops adding questions to the pile we already have–that he starts delivering answers already.

Strike that. I don’t actually mind more questions–so long as we’re also being given answers.

Like what happened to the laptop of Sam’s mom? What was she doing about Sam’s and Caine’s powers prior to the big disappearance?

We already have a theory by this time on why some kids have started to develop powers–but what is the logic behind the powers they manifest? Why aren’t all the kids developing powers?

I have so many questions. Now, I want answers.

Before I start ranting about the book again, let’s click away into other people’s blogs and see what they thought of the third book off the Gone series:
Kayla’s Book Chat
Winged Reviews
A Journey Through Pages
YouTube Review: BrandiMarie88

Book: Hunger

"Hunger"

Food ran out weeks ago and starvation is imminent. Meanwhile, the normal teens have grown resentful of the kids with powers. And when an unthinkable tragedy occurs, chaos descends upon the town. There is no longer right or wrong. Each kid is out for himself and even the good ones turn murderous.

But a larger problem looms. The Darkness, a sinister creature that has lived buried deep in the hills, begins calling to some of the teens in the FAYZ. Calling to them, guiding them, manipulating them.

The Darkness has awakened. And it is hungry.

After reading the first book, there was only one thing that I found myself caring little about: the powers. While important, it played so little into the unfolding stories of the book–save for the battle scenes that, I must admit, were really cool. But there were seeds planted in Gone that fully blooms here in the second book. After the battle of good and evil, where good seemingly won, the battle moves inward. With the normal kids fighting against the super-powered ones.

Hunger continues to tell its story with an ensemble cast. Unlike in the first book though, this one introduces a sub-story starring one of the smaller characters in the first book, Albert, which I want to discuss first.

Back in Gone, I liked the character of Albert because he was a normal kid whose common sense was a breath of fresh air from all the super-powered shenanigans happening all over the place. And, for the most part, that remains unchanged. For the most part. The awkwardness that stemmed from being the runt of a huge family seems to have disappeared. This makes sense because he’s slowly finding his place in town. But the common sense that separated him from the other characters in the first book seems to be giving way to ambition in Hunger. And I must say, I don’t like where it seems to be going.

It’s gradual. Albert, for the most part, still has great ideas for their community. The plans he execute are actually very smart. Too smart for a teenager, but we’ll suspend our disbelief. But the last leg of his Hunger journey has me scratching my head. In what universe is it smart to use bullets as currency? Especially around kids who are ready to wage war against each other? Where there are guns aplenty, and no one is regulating their use?

That way leads to a lot of stupid mistakes. And I can’t believe this came from Albert. Unless the author reveals a sudden twist in the next book where Albert was replaced by an agent of darkness. Who knows.

The reason why I bring up this sub-story is because I feel like this will play a bigger role in the next books. Much like the other sub-story that, I feel, should’ve been the one in the spotlight: the normals versus the freaks.

It’s discrimination. There are no pretensions about it, as one character explicitly points it out. And in a post-apocalyptic setting where mob mentality rules the mostly kid population? It’s a very interesting premise that, I feel, falters in the end. No one even dies.

I’m sure there are reasons for there no being casualties. And I don’t think author Michael Grant is afraid of killing off characters, as evidenced in the first chapter of this book. But I do feel that something bigger should’ve happened with this story before the book ended. I just hope there’s more to this storyline in the next book.

With the sub-stories aside, let’s move on to the main plot: which is hard to put into paper. You have Sam who is dealing with leadership issues, Caine who is holding on dearly to his crumbling dictatorship, and then there’s the Darkness–and its hold on a number of our main characters, and its plans of being released out of the mine shaft.

In the first book, the Darkness felt a little tacked on. Again, as I said, the powers really do feel like a latch on in Gone. But in this book, the Darkness is explored further as a character. Sort of. It’s definitely used more to explore the characters of Lana the healer and Caine. Which, I thought, was a great use for the monster in the shaft. Just not a very complete use. I mean, by the end of the book, it felt like the Darkness was one of the monsters that the Power Rangers fought week after week, presented as the strongest force, as something to fear–and then defeated by the end of an episode.

Unless, again, it plays a bigger role in the next book. How? I don’t know as I haven’t started reading the third book yet.

What I really want to discuss though is Sam’s character.

Sam who was an amazing flawed protagonist in the first book mutated into something of a whiny baby in Hunger. Aside from the first chapter, I don’t think there was a single scene in which Sam did not complain about his circumstances. Sure, he didn’t ask to be made leader–but he accepted it. And while it’s understandable for him to feel the pressure of the job, we didn’t have to be reminded of it every single time he appears.

It reached a point when I sought refuge in the scenes that revolved around other characters. Even horribly underused new characters who seemed to have been introduced just to serve as canon fodder.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed reading the book, but it’s not exactly the most perfect book written. But, I must say, Hunger being not perfect makes it the perfect book to have discussions with. And it’s not like the book turned me off the series. I already bought the third and fourth book, actually.

Now, let’s see what other people have said about this book:
Reading Writing Breathing
Georgia Summers
Books4Hearts
YouTube Review: beardude37

Book: Gone

"Gone"

Everyone except for the young. Teens. Middle schoolers. toddlers. But not a single adult. No teachers, no cops, no doctors, no parents. Gone, too, are the phones, internet, and television. There is no way to get help.

Hunger threatens. Bullies rule. A sinister creature lurks. Animals are mutating. And the teens themselves are changing, developing new talents–unimaginable, dangerous, deadly powers–that grows stronger by the day.

It’s a terrifying new world. Sides are being chosen and war is imminent.

I love getting into a new series when they’re about to release the last book. Especially when the series turns out to be quite enjoyable. Like Michael Grant’s Gone series.

Admittedly, I’ve never really thought about picking up the book at all, if it weren’t for an acquaintance’s recommendation. No, it’s not the story I had a problem with, the not-picking-up-the-book part? That was literal. I’ve never actually gotten to the part where I’ve read the synopsis at the back.

So what put me off? What else? The cover. Released during the heyday of Gossip Girl and the likes, the Gone series looked like it belonged in that genre. And that genre never appealed to me.

Well, there is a reason why we have the saying “don’t judge the book by its cover.”

Sure, Gone isn’t exactly ground-breaking. It’s teens with superpowers. Sounds familiar? Of course it would. It’s one of the most popular trope in the current landscape of the young adult genre. And it doesn’t even utilize the super power trope all that well in this book. In fact, I’ll even say that the powers aren’t all that important in this book at all.

But what makes this book work is because the author created characters that actually breathe. Michael Grant introduces us to a high school of stereotypes, and turns that around in its head before the first chapter ends.

We have two central characters–the reluctant leader, Sam, and the charismatic Caine. And around them, we have other characters that are split into two camps: the kids of Perdido Beach, and the ones who are still in Coates Academy.

Notice how I didn’t say main character. That’s because while Sam and Caine are important in the fabric of the story, their main character status is on the same level as many of the other characters. It’s an ensemble cast.

Now, I know that stories with an ensemble cast of characters have a tendency to be hard to follow. That was the case against The Casual Vacancy. But the difference here is, there’s a common goal among many of the characters–and Sam and Caine clearly stands out as the characters whose journeys we’re supposed to follow.

A journey that, I felt, could have done without the super powers. At least, in this book.

Oh sure, the powers are integral to the story. Especially having read the second book and seeing where that plot thread is headed. But with this book in particular, I thought the disappearance of adults, getting cut off from the world, and the new world order that comes from that is interesting enough without the super powers subplot. And it is, I feel, nothing but subplot and eye-candy in this book.

Of course, if you take out the powers in this book, it’s not like it can just pop up in the books that follow. It’s just that–I do wonder how Michael Grant would’ve handled the Lord of the Flies problem with today’s kids. It’s just that we get glimpses of it–but the intricacies of a kid-run nation gets overshadowed a lot of the times by the need to address the superpowers.

But that’s just me seeing a different avenue of storytelling for the Gone series. It’s great as it is, and I’m sure it’s just going to keep getting better.

Well, I hope.

Now, let’s see what other people have said about the first book in the Gone series:
At Home With Books
Turn the Page
The Fiction Diaries
YouTube Review: ArrictineReads