3/5 stars Interesting Twist on Boy Learns he has Cool Gifts
Sam’s dead (not a spoiler, that’s in the blurb). He goes to a place called Havona to learn the secrets of the universe. You’ll have to forgive my lack of details. I’m partly trying to avoid spoilers and it’s been a while since I heard the audiobook. I meant to write this ages ago.
– Worldbuilding (3.5/5) – This book contains a lot of really cool ideas. They’re pretty hard to describe though, and the author does an admirable job of attempting the feat. For example, the switching bodies section was very cool.
– Characters (3.5/5) – Sam meets several aliens. Only about 4 of them remain central to the story. Can’t remember the names right now, and besides, my spelling of them would be atrocious anyway. I don’t feel like you really get to know the pre-death Sam well enough to like him as a character. I did like his friend, but our time with her is short too. That may be purposeful.
– Plot (3/5) – The book splits roughly 1/5 to 4/5 before death and after death. The after death sections play out like most “training” sequences with the added bonus of very neat new worlds being thrown in the mix.
– Closure (1/5) – Clearly, this book is meant to be a series. I have a thing about closure, as in I REALLY like it and this book severely lacked it. That said, there are definitely good parts to the book. The end fails to satisfy. It’s not quite a true cliffhanger, but the end sprang up and ran right to the edge of … something, a gentle slide into “well, there’s definitely more to come.” Please note, this might just be a personal taste thing. I absolutely hate endings that feel like teasers/ setup for a new book.
– Why couldn’t I connect with the book?
After some soul-searching, I’m ready to conclude “not my cup of tea.” It’s a decent book. One of my major pitfalls in buying into the story was a lack of a real sense of danger. They’re already dead. The sense of “oh, wow, this could truly be the END” never really kicked in throughout the story, even with the threat of “Reset”. That removed a lot of the tension for me. Without tension, I couldn’t get into the conflict. Without conflict, there’s not much of a story.
– Aside: Much of this story, probably right down to starting with the cover, felt stylistically like the “new” Willy Wonka movie with Johnny Depp or the Oz, the Great and Powerful. They’re over-the-top, crazy colors everywhere kind of movies.
– Who do I think would like the book?
Middle grade boys, an underserved market if there is such a thing in literature. This is not a knock against them in anyway. It’s an acknowledgement that their tastes and mine will differ.
– Narration (2.5/5) – Usually, I’m cool with narrators. This one is okay, but his voice isn’t my favorite. He has a very matter-of-fact style of reading that made parts come across as choppy.
The plot feels like the beginning act of a much larger play. If that sort of thing bothers you, avoid. If you’re cool with that, go for it. What it lacks in closure, it makes up for in imagination and neat concepts. Sam’s a likable guy. Give the audio sample a shot and see if you like it. Or read a few pages from the preview and take the leap if you like what you see.
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