World Divided Book Two of the Secret World Chronicle

I began reading this, due to the last half of the first book picking up pace and becoming more interesting. I read only about half of the book, typically annoyed at the spaghetti plot and series of actions affecting disconnected characters at discrete times. I decided to set it aside before I started reading it for its flaws–to appreciate the part I’d enjoyed, without continuing out of obligation.

I bet it was a good call.

Secret World Chronicles 01 – Invasion by Mercedes Lackey Steve Libbey, Cody Martin & Dennis Lee

Before I begin, if you’re wondering whether you should read this book, the answer is probably no. If you like the old MMO City of Heroes, you might enjoy a story set in its universe and appreciate it for that. Otherwise… it’s a very slow starting novel that doesn’t come to a clean conclusion, which is two big strikes.

The book is a collection of stories (but not really contained short stories, like an anthology) told from a rotating POV. The slow start comes from time spent setting up the world before we really meet the characters. The PCs are often solo in chapters well into the book–while they meet people, they’re focused on their own issues–widely separated at first (these read like a character’s backstory as handed to a GM), then with some interaction between their characters.

Many of the characters are well drawn–cool characters. The plot has some tie to the characters, but it’s more a sense of the characters being created to tie into a standing plot, than the plot emerging from the characters’ experiences. It feels a little like early Dragonlance novels.

It looks like the podcasts that the books are based on went to 8 seasons (novel equivalents), so that’s interesting. I bet they get better if you stick with them.

Shades of Grey by Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittredge

I like this book, the sequel to Black and White, too… just not as much.

The focus of this book is much less on Jet and Iridium. The book still alternates between current action and flashbacks, but the flashbacks are not to young Jet and Iridium, but to their parents–and not just their parents, but the whole alpha-team of their parent’s day. It’s a good change for getting more world building and explanations into the story, but gives up the strong focus on Jet and Iridium that made the first book such a pleasure.

So the crisis Iridium triggered at the end of Black and White is the heart of “now”; dealing with it is exhausting, but Jet and Iridium grow and step into new leadership roles. It’s a fine “adulthood and accepting the burdens of responsibility” story, but it’s much shorter than the previous book. The alternate era story is interesting and good worldbuilding–it’s nice context for both books–but no character gets enough time to make them truly sing. (Luster is much better formed by the end of the flashbacks; his final “then” scene with Night does a great job of defining them both.)

I think this book was the end of their partnership in exploring this world. If they resumed, the story going forward would be significantly different due to Jet and Iridium’s new relationship and roles. Done well, I’d enjoy more stories.

Black and White by Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittredge

An interesting future that’s almost a hundred years away, but still feels in most ways like the world of today.

The story follows two POV characters, Iridium and Jet, from their admission the Academy. They’re Extrahumans. The investigation of how Extrahumans came to be and what they mean is a big part of the book’s exploration.

The story is mostly of the pair of them in their late teens and early 20s, as they wind up on different paths. The world building is interesting, but so are the way their characters develop. There is a lot of behind the scenes manipulation to unsnarl, and Night’s heel turn at the end is weird–though perhaps appropriately so.

It was a fun book and an interesting alternate future. I’ll read the sequel.

EXHeroes by Peter Clines

A fun mashup of heroes and zombies, just like the back of the book says. The heroes are pretty heroic, and the zombie plague is horrific and fits the setting.

It’s a well written apocalypse, with a collapsed society and tightened boundaries that felt realistic. The book falls into a focus on the supers, with everyone else more an abstraction–people to save, protect, but not really interact with.

I’m mildly curious about other books in the series.