by Stacey Rourke
Series: Archive of the Fives #1
Publication Date: February 12, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
The end of the world is coming. How or when, scientists can't agree upon. For decades, Earth's best line of defense has been a team of young soldiers known as the Apocalypse Five, forced into virtual reality simulations to train for Doom's Day. But, this is no game. Death on the grid is brutally final and calls up the next in a long line of cadets. Stationed aboard the AT-1-NS Starship, the A5 are celebrities thrust into the limelight by a calling they didn't choose. All it takes is one unscheduled mission, showing seventeen-year-old team leader Detroit a harsh and unfathomable reality, to shake the A5's belief in all they thought they knew. After questioning people with the power to destroy them, the team is framed for a crime they didn't commit and marked for death. Now, the hunt is on. Can the Apocalypse Five expose the truth the starship would kill to keep hidden? Or, will their bravery end in a public execution?
Every once in a while, I just need a good YA scifi romp. There’s something undeniably fun about a bunch of teens saving the world, and this book definitely fits the bill. It’s a bit of a mash between The Hunger Games and Ender’s Game, and it works pretty well. There’s a lovely found family theme flowing through the book, one of my favorite tropes, and it made this so much more enjoyable.
“June-bug, I need you to breathe. Remember the A.S.K. method we came up with? If we are Alive, Safe, and Concealed we’re doing okay.”
Her breath ragged, his sister flicked a wayward curl from her eyes. “A.S.K. isn’t a thing! Concealed starts with a C, and our entire lives are a lie!”
Reno pulled back as if she slapped him. “It does?”
The story is centered around an elite group of teens raised since birth in the hopes of becoming part of the Apocalypse Five, a group who trains through simulations to recover Earth from whatever horrors they might face in the future. They’re celebrities, with their missions and private lives filmed and broadcast for the rest of humanity’s viewing pleasure. After spending her young life training for this very job, and leading the team for over a year, Detroit should be pleased. But something is not quite right, and when Detroit stumbles on to a secret, suddenly her team is enemy number one. Stranded on an unfamiliar Earth and without any resources, they’re forced to come to terms with an unimaginable truth. How far will the team go to protect a new chance at life?
“The four of you are the only family I have ever known. You’ve made me who I am. I would deny myself every luxury in this galaxy to keep all of you safe.”
Juneau’s face fell into a frown and she let go of the shower wall. “In that case, you truly are the best toy soldier the AT-1-NS has.”
I loved Detroit and all of the Apocalypse Five team. I thought they were all well-characterized, and I loved the team interactions. Detroit subsumes her feelings into her work, Augusta drinks, and Houston is, well, hot, apparently. There’s also the twins – Juneau with her love of romance and Reno who’s main interest is keeping his sister safe. Once they’re exiled to Earth and on the run, they finally start to really gel and become a family, and I loved watching that happen. A nice bit was that the women were always considered equal teammates with the men, and each character has a speciality that they use to help the team out. I also liked the romance between Detroit and Houston, though it did get a bit overwrought towards the end.
The book is undeniably fun, but it’s also a bit less sophisticated than the other books it’s been compared to. The plot is predictable – it’s obvious from the beginning what’s going on and how it will all pan out. I did enjoy the world-building, though I found some of it confusing, and I liked the various Earth groups that were introduced, including the newborn and her parents. Any gamer will groan about the bane of all quests, the escort mission, and when I first realized that’s what the book was turning into, I was apprehensive. It’s still delightfully action-packed, though, between the missions at the beginning and being on the run for the rest of the book. The various battles were well-described and thrilling. The one thing I would complain about there is that there’s a lot of purple prose – one villain’s eyes are described as “lasers of hate” and two characters “optically copulate” – which detracted a bit from the emotion of the scene. There’s a good bit of humor in the book as well, which helped, though it’s mostly of the quick quip or one-liner variety. A lot of the humor reminded me of a TV show or movie, and I honestly think it would make a great action blockbuster, even though I found it a bit unsatisfying as a book.
Overall, while I enjoyed the book, it was a bit too predictable for me, and I’m not sure if I’ll continue with the series. If you’re hungry for a fun YA scifi romp, though, I’d definitely recommend this to you!