Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Review: Reboot

Author: Amy Tintera
Genre: Young adult, dystopia, science fiction, romance
My Rating: ★★★★(3.5/5 stars)


In the remains of what used to be Texas, a strange respiratory virus called KDH has decimated the global population. Survivors have to be careful so they separated themselves into the rich cities and the poor slums, the healthy and the sick. But the virus chooses no social strata—some people from the “rico” still acquire the virus and die. The Human Advancement and Repopulation Corporation (HARC) tries to get the situation under control by minimizing subsequent KDH outbreaks through quarantining the ill and protecting the survivors. What the HARC is more known for, however, is training the Reboots.

The Reboots are what you may call this dystopia’s version of zombies, except that they do not mindlessly shamble in hordes or are in possession of disintegrating bones and flesh. They are faster, stronger, able to heal, and less emotional versions of what they were in their previous life. They are what the KDH-infected young folks—or later on, just young folks—will become after they kick the bucket and come back to life. The HARC trains them to be perfect soldiers of a task force aiming to eliminate criminals and the sick.
It is said that the more minutes a human is dead, the stronger he becomes when he reboots. Our teenage protagonist Wren Connolly wakes up one hundred seventy-eight minutes after she took three bullets to the chest. This makes her the deadliest Reboot the HARC currently has in their arsenal. There is almost no trace of human left in her…or so she thinks.

Callum, her newest trainee, is on the complete opposite side of the spectrum. He jolts back to life after only twenty-two minutes, making him still practically human and unfit to be a HARC soldier. His sunny disposition colored Wren intrigued: he jokes, he smiles, he questions things. And when the Under-60 (minutes) reboots, including her best friend Ever, start to act like violent animals, Wren suspects that there is something terribly amiss. For the first time in five years since she rebooted, Wren starts questioning things—both inside and outside of herself.

There is something about the continuous waves of YA dystopia in our shelves that makes me stop in my tracks and turn to another section of the bookstore. I know comparison is not always a good thing, but whenever I pick up a YA novel with a post-apocalyptic theme, I cannot help but see traces of a downgraded The Hunger Games in it. I grew tired easily and chose to bury my nose in other genres.
I was in the general science fiction section when I stumbled upon a copy of Reboot. Despite its synopses that make no effort in covering up the fact that it’s chock-full of YA tropes, the premise snagged my attention. I thought to myself, “Hey, it’s been a while since I last read a post-apocalyptic zombie story. This one sounds zombie-esque in a very interesting way. Might as well give it a try.” I didn’t regret it.

I will not make it sound like Reboot is different from its shelf-brethrens, because it is not. The book has the main ingredients of a regular dystopia novel we have nowadays: the badass heroine, the sweet love interest to coax out her softer side, an authority that supposedly keeps everything in order, a “glitch” in the system that the heroine sees through, and the first dashes of rebellion. It’s all in there. But what made me give this book four stars is how it seems to separate itself from its genre-mates that are obviously too in love with their respective concepts. Reboot is instead in love with the story it shelters; the author took time in setting the inter- and intrapersonal conflicts aflame, in giving it the right pacing speed (break-neck in the right scenes, slowing down in others to make room for character development), and in the gradual fleshing out of the characters.

Speaking of character development, I liked how Wren grows as a character. However, I would like to see her evolve more as an individual. Perhaps the sequel could rectify that, but I wish the author saw the development’s completion in this novel’s 365 pages. On the other hand, Callum’s character is an easy winner of a reader’s heart. People would think he’s there only to catalyze Wren’s development, but I think he stands well as a separate individual. Being stuck somewhere between being a human and being a reboot, I am totally curious to see his take on things; I even think it would be better if the story is told from his point of view. I think the dynamics between Callum and Wren is somewhat reminiscent of Peeta and Katniss’, except that Wren has broken up faster and embraced her emotions back.

I wish Ever was in the spotlight. For some reason I think the “friendship” thing that Wren and Ever have could have contributed a lot to our dear narrator’s growth as a very human (pun intended!) character.
Anyway, my only real gripe concerns world-building, which I am a big fan of. The characters that populate the setting were being tended by the author as well as she could, but I cannot say the same for the setting itself. The readers are given a quick view of what Texas has become, and sometimes there is a glimpse into the world of HARC. But whatever was served for the readers was extremely limited; I did not feel like I was transported in the interesting-sounding world Tintera has created. I am attributing this to the fact that we are learning everything from the POV of Wren, who has been under the HARC for five years.

Lots of questions popped in my head: why do the reboots continue on as if they are still alive—growing and aging instead of rotting like zombies or getting trapped in the bodies they have when they died? Why did the HARC hire human guards when they know the Reboots they are guarding are stronger than them? How does the HARC monitor all teen/youth deaths to the last details, especially the number of minutes they were dead? I hope these, along with the world-building issue, would be resolved in the sequel.

3.5 for a good read.

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