Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A dark science fiction novel for young adults

Alive (The Generations Trilogy #1)

By Scott Sigler

Publisher: Del Rey

Pub. Date: July 14, 2015

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Alive, the first book in what author Scott Sigler calls The Generations Trilogy, seems at first to be well traveled territory. A young girl, who thinks she is 12 but discovers quickly she looks much older, wakes up from a "coffin". She is joined by others her age and all are also waking up and questioning the bleak abandoned facility they appear to be in. Having few memories and knowing nothing about their environment, they wander through seemingly endless corridors looking for answers and struggling to survive. It is somewhat easy to compare their dilemma to other popular young adults books like The Maze Runner, The Hunger Games,and even Lord of the Flies. It is impossible to not think of Lord of the Flies if the writer throws in a segment involving teenagers and wild pigs. So Alive seems to be revisiting old haunts in the YA market and it does just that for a while. But eventually it breaks through and becomes its own creative tale.

How it breaks through plot-wise will not be revealed. This is a novel with lots of turns and surprises. It would be wrong to spoil it for the prospective reader. Yet much of how it differentiates itself from the YA pack has to do with the author's style. Scott Sigler has a dark streak. While the violence level is equal to that of The Maze Runner and The Hunger Games, it seems to me darker and more intense. So intense that I would question the book's suitability for preteens. Yet the young adult/teen audience it is geared for is the perfect audience and well suited for the themes and dilemmas that are developed. The author takes his time revealing what is going on even though most readers will probably figure out where the young protagonists are located before they do. What I like is that with every reveal and clue of the plot, we discover something about the characters. "Em" is the main character, a young girl whose container she wakes up in is labeled "M. Savage". At the beginning, this is her only clue to her identity. She becomes the leader rather reluctantly and each obstacle becomes another hint to her purpose and existence. That also rings true in a minor version for the other teens. In fact their thoughts, behavior and particular markings on them hints of reveals to come in later installments. One of the nice themes going on when I read it is that even though the teens wake up with few rules and in a societal chaos, class and status still seems to haunt them as a irreversible part of the human condition. As for the plot in Alive, it is standalone in the sense we get an adequate explanation to what is going on but, like the good writer he is, Sigler leaves a few mysteries unexplained and an ending that prepares you for more to come.

So what Alive gives us is an entertaining dystopic science fiction novel with maybe a little more horror elements than some young readers are used to. Yet the way Sigler merges these elements should please these very readers. He creates an attractive dystopic world and manages to throw in a lot of thrills along with some involving coming-of-age themes. What I look for in a new series is a first book that stands on its own and gives me the satisfaction that I have read a novel rather than a introduction. But I also want it to leave just enough to make me want to see what happens in the next installment. Sigler's Alive does both.

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