I finally feel like the 21st century has arrived! I still don’t have my flying car, but at least I know I can by my jet pack (as soon as I win the lottery). According to this Popular Mechanics article, I can get my very own jet pack plus flying lessons for a measly $155k. And with two companies offering them for sale already, market forces may push down that price point to a more affordable $100k in the next few years.
Did you like the tv series Roswell? Then I Am Number Four should be right up your alley. Four is definitely aimed at the teen crowd, featuring teens as the lead characters, lots of super-powered action, and a fair bit of young love. It is supposedly authored by Pittacus Lore, who is actually a character in the book. (Neat shtick, I’ll be interested to see how it plays out in the long run.)
Four starts with a teenage boy and a man in a hut in the jungle. The man is killed, the boy runs for his life, but he doesn’t make it far. We then cut to another teenage boy at a pool party in Florida, who suddenly has a burning pain around his ankle as a charm warns him that another of his kind has been killed. This is our introduction to Number Four, who we come to know as John, an alien refugee whose race was nearly exterminated by a terrible enemy race. His race, the Lorien, is divided into to castes that worked together – the Garde, who have special abilities, the Cepan who help and teach the Garde, and run the government of the planet. Nine Garde children escaped on a ship to Earth, each with an adult Cepan to protect them and teach them until their abilities or legacies manifest when they are teens. It appears they are the only Loriens left. We follow John and his guardian, Henri, as they continue to run and hide, waiting for John’s legacies (read superpowers) to develop and preparing for the day when they will fight to reclaim their planet.
As his powers develop, John begins training to fight the enemy – the Mogadorians. He also manages to fall in love with a human girl and become best friends with a schoolmate who believes his father was abducted by aliens. Henri remains vigilant, always watching for signs the Mogadorians may have found them, even as John begins to resist the idea of running again. News comes from an unusual source – John’s alien obsessed best friend has a newsletter that has an article about Mogadorians planning to invade Earth. When Henri goes to check it out, the Mogadorians pick up their trail and they and their human friends have to fight for their lives against a horde of alien monsters. That fight by sucking the life out of everything around them – their weapons are literally powered by the life force of surrounding trees and plants.
The plot is a bit far-fetched, a lot more fantasy than science fiction, but it is fast paced and easy to read. There is enough allegory to support a deeper read if you work for it (the Mogadorians attacked the Lorien to steal their resources because they poisoned their own planet but still refused to give up their lifestyle and develop different technologies – their planet died despite the influx of materials from the conquered planet) and there are some touching moments between fight scenes. There is also a good hook to lead you into the next book – it is obviously a series.
What would Philip K Dick and Stephen King’s love child look like if it grew up reading 1984 and watching Saw movies? Probably a lot like Inferno by Todd Riemer. There is the decaying dystopian society with requisite brutality and opression, a demon spirit and the ghost of a dead lover caught between two worlds, and well-crafted though rather graphic scenes of torture and abuse. This book is not for the faint of heart but it does have nice, tight prose and good imagery.
The hero of our story, Blum, tells us of his experiences through flashbacks and real time narration. We first meet him in a dream (which honestly put me off a bit, because I didn’t realize it was a dream at first and it seemed incomprehensible, but eventually I read past the first page and it started to make sense). We discover he has been imprisoned for years for rebellion against the oppressive regime that murdered his lover, who was at the time pregnant with his child. We follow him through escape, return, capture, resistance, and another insurrection. Along the way we discover he is being manipulated by a demon spirit called the Midnight Man who hopes to corrupt Blum completely so that he can take the Midnight Man’s place as a tortured and miserable ruler of hell. The Midnight Man holds the ghost of Blum’s lover hostage in the fires, where she will remain until Blum kills her murderers, thereby freeing her to be reborn into a new life.
Inferno is Riemer’s first novel, and is self published. Most of the time I am leery of self published books, because they tend to have grammar and punctuation errors that drive me nuts – more so than books from major publishers with copy editors. I was pleasantly surprised that that was not an issue with Inferno, although it has a unique, almost stream-of-consciousness, style that took some getting used to. Once I adjusted to the style, I quickly got caught up in the imagery of the book. If you enjoy dark stories and don’t mind graphic violence, this is a good read with redemption and a little nugget of hope at the end.
For those of you who prefer a multimedia experience, Riemer also has a website here for all things Inferno.