Review: Swarm by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan & Deborah Biancotti

swarm

Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Release date: September 28, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 400
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EVERY POWER HAS A DARK SIDE

Keep the secret.
Use your power for good.
Keep out of trouble.
Stick together.
Or things will fall apart.

It’s the holiday season, but the celebration at the Zeroes’s underground nightclub is blown apart when two strangers with new powers take to the dance floor. The Zeroes pursue them, only to discover that they’re fleeing an even more sinister power-wielder, Swarm. The Zeroes must learn all they can about this dangerous new player if they are to stay safe.

Meanwhile each of the Zeroes also has their own issues to deal with. Bellwether’s confidence is challenged, and Mob questions the nature of her power. Crash’s conscience gets a workout, and Anon and Scam face harsh truths about belonging. And it’s up to Flicker to pick up the reins and lead the Zeroes into a terrifying showdown.

A terrific sequel with a cracking pace that raises the stakes in this brilliant and unique superheroes series.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

Swarm is the second book in the Zeroes trilogy, which means that this review may contain minor spoilers for the first book.

Thank you to Allen & Unwin for providing a review copy of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

All I can say right now is whoa. And I need the next book ASAP! Swarm ends on an incredibly painful cliffhanger and I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself for the next 12 months while I wait for the next book to be released…

This trilogy is getting better and better. I enjoyed Zeroes immensely but wasn’t completely sold on all the characters and the plot of the book. Swarm takes it to a completely different level. It was engaging, fast-paced and action-packed. The whole novel takes place over just a few days and there’s so much that happens in the book that it’s hard not to get swept up in everything that’s going on. It also struck me again how unique and interesting the superpowers in this series are. This book picks up 6 months after the events in Zeroes and is about what happens when our group of Zeroes meet a pair of other Zeroes that don’t have good intentions. As they try to stop this couple from causing mass destruction, it turns out that there’s a bigger enemy called Swarm who has a mission that puts all Zeroes in danger. I really, really loved the plot of this book. I enjoyed it more than the events in Zeroes because, to me, it seemed a bit more logical and clear. I connected with it much more and was really invested in what was going on in the story. This might have been because I was more familiar with the characters at this point and could focus on the plot – who knows? I just thought that the plot explored a lot of really interesting questions about superheroes and superpowers, and whether having a superpower means that you’re automatically doing good. And what happens when your powers unknowingly destroy things and cause harm instead?

The other thing that I really loved about this book were the characters. When I read Zeroes, the only two characters that I really liked were Flicker and Anonymous. The others I either disliked or didn’t really care for. However, the character development in this book was fantastic. In the previous book, I felt like I didn’t have a good idea of who some of the characters were but Swarm definitely rectified that. We got to know more about Crash and she became a character that I came to like a lot more. We also get to see a different side to Bellwether and that was really refreshing. I also started to like Mob a little bit more. She was a character that I didn’t really understand or connect with in Zeroes but her character really morphed into somebody who was really interesting. Finally, there’s Scam… I’m still not completely sold on Scam. While the Ethan side of him is kind of endearing because he’s so awkward, I find it really hard to connect with his character. He also didn’t have a lot of page time in this book and I don’t feel any closer to him than before.

I really loved the character relationships in this book. I will adore Flickonymous forever and ever, and I’m really keen to see how their storyline plays out in the final book of the trilogy because this book killed me with all the feels. What I really enjoyed about Swarm was that the other romances in this book weren’t obvious. There were ships in the previous book that I was sure were going to sail in Swarm but the authors definitely turned some things on their heads. It was really refreshing and enjoyable to see. The group as a whole is more tight-knit and I’m interested to see where the next book takes them.

Swarm was published by Allen & Unwin on September 28, 2016. It is available at all Australian retailers for $19.99.

Review: Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan & Deborah Biancotti

zeroes

Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Release date: September 22, 2015
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 1925266958
Pages: 496
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One bag of stolen drug money.
One bungled bank robbery.
Six teenagers.
Six unique powers.
One action-packed week.

These teens have powers that set them apart. But don’t call them heroes. They are the ZEROES.

Ethan, aka Scam, has a voice inside him that will say whatever people want to hear, whether it’s true or not. Which is handy, except when it isn’t – like when ‘the voice’ starts gabbing in the middle of a bank robbery and lands him in a whole lot of trouble. The only people who can help are the other Zeroes, who aren’t exactly his best friends these days.

After Scam’s SOS, Nate, aka Bellwether – the group’s ‘glorious leader’ – summons the other Zeroes for a rescue mission. But when the rescue blows up in their faces, the Zeroes find themselves propelled into whirlwind encounters with ever more dangerous criminals. And at the heart of the chaos they find Kelsie, who can take a crowd in the palm of her hand and tame it or let it loose as she pleases. Can they put aside their differences and work together to keep everyone safe – or will it be the worst week of their lives?

MY THOUGHTS

35 stars

Joey @ Thoughts and Afterthoughts has been pestering me to read Zeroes for a couple of weeks now so I finally picked up a copy. My bookstore had signed copies so when I saw it, I had to pick it up. I’ve just finished reading the Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children trilogy, so what better way to prolong my feels than to pick up another book about kids with superpowers?

Zeroes is the first book in a new urban fantasy series (does anyone know how many books?) with a diverse cast of characters. It was thrilling and exciting, and a really quick read. Despite being 500 pages, I finished this in almost one sitting because the chapters are very short. The writing flowed very smoothly and it was a joy to read. I also couldn’t tell which author wrote which chapters, which is a testament to how seamlessly the book was woven together and edited. This book is a multi-POV book, written from six perspectives, but it didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the book because it flowed so smoothly from one perspective to the next..

This book is set in Cambria, California in an urban setting. Because of this, there was very little world building required. I went into the book half-expecting it to be set in Sydney, Australia because all three of the authors are based in Sydney. But let’s be real… when are books ever set in Australia? It’s been a while since I’ve picked up an urban fantasy book though so I really appreciated the familiar setting in Zeroes.

I really enjoyed the pace of the writing for most of this book. The beginning of the novel was very eventful but the pace and excitement levels of it really dropped off for 100-150 pages in the aftermath of the rescue mission, as we were getting to know the characters. The writing became very reflective and it just felt slow and draggy to me. There wasn’t much action or plot during this section either, so I felt like I was just sitting there waiting for something to happen. Luckily it picked up at around the halfway mark when I started liking the characters more – it became a character-driven book rather than a plot-driven book.

The characters had some interesting and unique abilities that I’ve never encountered before. They were kind of mind-boggling at times but the authors did a great job at explaining them. I still had a little bit of a hard time understanding how Kelsie and Nate’s powers worked though. They both have the ability to control groups/crowds in some way, but I couldn’t grasp how these abilities actually worked. Most of their superpowers also seemed more like a curse than a blessing.

“Your power is a blessing. But as far as I can tell, the rest of these guys are pretty much cursed.”

I had a hard time connecting with the characters until about the halfway point. While the book is written from all six perspectives of the Zeroes, the first half of the book is mostly narrated from Ethan and Kelsie’s points of view, and I didn’t really like either of them until the very end of the novel. I didn’t like them individually. I didn’t like them together. My dislike for them just made it really hard for me to enjoy the first half of the book.

When Anonymous, the handsome and well-dressed guy of the group, finally made his appearance, I became enamoured with the book. He was by far my favourite character because his story was so interesting. He’s the guy who is invisible to the world – people forget about him as soon as they turn their backs to him. As the book progresses, he develops friendships with some of the other Zeroes and they were so heartwarming to read about. I also enjoyed Flicker, a blind girl who is able to see the world through the eyes of others. I really connected with her character and her perspective was my favourite to read from.

The other two characters, Crash (a girl who can control all things electronic and crash them) and Nate, the charismatic ringleader of the Zeroes, I could’ve done without. I have zero thoughts or opinions about Crash – her superpower is kind of cool though and she’s pretty much the one who saves the day each time. She barely appeared in this book and the only time we really got to see her was when she was rescuing everyone. And Nate… wow I just hated this guy. He wasn’t in the book very much either, but he came off as obnoxious and it appears that he has some selfish, ulterior motives.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. The plot was fast-paced and exciting but what stood out to me the most were the characters and the dynamics between them. I’m not sure if this needs to be a series though – I was thoroughly satisfied with how this book ended, and you can definitely read it as a standalone.