Damage Time by Colin Harvey

A very interesting book; a bit confusing at first, until you come to realize that Pete Shah’s job is to delve into recorded memories… so some of the interstitial chapters are from his professional research and only tie indirectly to the main plot.

There’s a strong theme of memory and identity, and how they’re linked. It’s not abstract or musing–it’s an interesting police procedural with weird tech. The big tech is memory recording and dissemination–basically simsense and BTL–but there are other strong elements, like the expensive personal transportation due to climate taxes, flooding and sea walls, etc. There’s also reference to a great thinning of the planet by plague a generation or two ago.

I liked the world building, the continuity of existing cultures, even with the remade map of this near future. The world is grim, but by no means hopeless.

I really like the changes to Pete as he rebuilds himself; near the end, he points out just how much of the impact of tragedy is lessened when you don’t viscerally remember the reasons you love and hate. The cat and mouse between Pete and Kotian is setup at the beginning and delivers by the end.

Prodigy by Marie Lu

The second book, a sequel to Legend. It doesn’t start off as a great stand alone (it starts with them on the run, so you’ll want to understand who they’re running from and running toward), but it offers a solid conclusion. The conclusion marks a pivot–I can see a third book with a different mix of POV characters, though it doesn’t have to change.

The books kicks off with learning more about the Patriots, including meeting their leadership. The plan they present to Day and June is a YA level plot… which makes it rewarding when it’s later revealed that the Patriots, Republic, and Colonies are all more complicated than Day or June understand.

Tess really blossoms as a character and feel authentic. Day and June have a bout of trust issues–while it makes sense and doesn’t quite fall into the trap of being easily solved in one conversation–it still felt tropey as I read it.

The final sequence is movie ready action, requiring action movie like levels of disbelief. But it ends strong, with the characters changed and looking forward to much more adult and constrained responsibilities. (As I wrote this, I realized that their position at the end of this book isn’t dissimilar to Katniss and Peta the end of the Hunger Game’s first book.)

Anyway, I enjoyed it and it finished well. I’m ordering the next two books from the library.

Legend by Marie Lu

A fun YA book set in a dystopia that seems more the result of politics and climate change than nuclear winter or an equally dramatic break with today. Though, given the Elector’s control over information, who knows how much the world is accurately seen by either of our perceptive teens?

Day and June are both very sympathetic characters; incredibly skilled and to be looked up to from a raw potential POV, but also still victim to teenage gaps.

I enjoyed the first book and am a few chapters into its sequel, Prodigy.

Forever Peace by Joe Haldeman

An interesting tale tangentially related to Forever War–but it stands alone as much as it claims.

It’s a not too future with a fight between an imperialist America running a drug-war squared type intervention throughout the third world, remotely piloting mechs from the safety of fortified bases. Julian’s life bounces between his 10 day duty rotations and a scraping by life as a junior professor at home.

A couple of overlapping developments break the characters out of their comfortable lives and into the depths of scientific controversy and into a struggle with an apocalyptic cult. The final development comes from a crazy skew and seems to work too well… but it works.

Allegiant by Veronica Roth

A worthy conclusion to the trilogy.

The last book ended with Tris’ capture–she begins this book held in Erudite headquarters, this time fortunately not alone. The city struggles with the changes brought about by the assault at the end of book 2… and the Tris’s big revelation to the city.

The world grows again–not just out to the city’s associated Amity farms, but beyond the city altogether. Outside… it turns out the cities and factions are not at all natural–they’re somewhat controlled experiments.

This book introduces Tobias as an alternating POV. For the overall story, the addition makes sense, but I miss the immediacy of Tris’s journey alone, as in the first two books. Some of the conflicts that arise I’d probably have explained away more easily with access to only one POV–with both, the thinness of the dispute felt a little more author inserted.

This book is great for explanations and lore, though I completely empathize with Tobias when he bemoans just how many revolutions he’s participated in by the end of the book.

Time is a little more front and center; you realize that the first two books are much less than a year’s action. This book has a somewhat odd pacing for the world behind–a few longer gaps of “not much going on, losing track of time”. And it features an epilogue set two and a half years later, looking back on this crazy time and its lasting impact.

A good conclusion to a fun book. The politics all trended YA simple, but the excellent and vibrant characters kept the action focused where it was strong. Well done, particularly for a debut series.

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

The sequel to Divergent. If you liked the first book, this is a fine sequel. The book does have the drawbacks of a mid-trilogy book. It starts with a defeat and runs generally down beat–particularly Tris’s relationship with Four.

At times, it felt like progress was being stolen from the hard earned victories of Divergent, but they feel like a natural continuation. We learn much more about Candor and Amity this time; while there are strands of “peaceful hippy” to Amity, and strands of “no filter” to Candor, both have more nuance than their they present to outsiders. We also learn more about the factionless.

Tris continues to struggle, now to survive a life on the run, rather than just adjusting to Dauntless life. She has good allies and vibrant connections to them–they rarely feel like they’re making their decisions motivated by plot.

The book ends with tumultuous change and a revelation that feeds straight into book 3.

Hurricane Fever by Tobias Buckell

We’re back with retired Caribbean Intelligence officer Prudence Jones, Roo to his friends.

The book is a fun continuation of Roo’s career–well, post career, as he’s retired from the agency. But his skills, contacts and tradecraft drag him back into the mix. An old friend dies, but an “on death” message directs him to a secret flash drive and a global conspiracy… that’s too well protected to identify after a brief review.

It’s a cool plot with great action scenes and chemistry between the leads. This could easily be a 21st century version of spycraft to rival James Bond for a more complicated world with a more underdog feel.

I’ll keep an eye out for further books in the series.

Divergent by Veronica Roth

A good book, YA focused, the beginning of a trilogy. I enjoyed it enough to want to read the sequel.

For world building… somehow the world was messed up, probably involving corrupt politicians. From that fallen world, society organized itself into five factions (plus the leftovers)–each with a high minded goal and a widely acknowledged vice. Tris, our viewpoint character, grows up as a member of Abnegation–a service/charity focused faction that tends to the downtrodden… and runs society, since they personify selflessness.

This book is set in a fallen Chicago; prosperity is long behind, and communication, much less travel beyond the city appears strictly limited. A few chapters in, the students (who are 16?) are subjected to a hallucinatory experience that guides them to the faction that fits them best. Except that Beatrice is one of the (rare?) few who is Divergent–not strongly inclined to one faction. She learns that’s a dangerous place to be… and the rest of the book reinforces the need to conform and fit in.

Once I complete my current checked out books, the sequels will hop to the top of my queue…