Score: 90/100 (9.0 out of 10)
Excerpt: “Sam covered his face with his hands. This is wrong. This is all wrong. How has it come to this? Was this deadly game a symptom of the end of humanity or was it destined to be its root cause?”
The Doomsday Clock predicts that humanity's time on Earth is running out. Freak storms have ravished the world, World War III is said to have occurred, and a viral pandemic spread by insects has inflicted most of the survivors, leaving behind a population of deformed human beings who've evolved or adapted to the worsening conditions on the planet. Among this generation of survivors is Samuel Richmond, better known as Sam. He is the son of a brilliant scientist and is an aspiring pilot in a sort of space cadet/space force program. They are deeply involved in a project called the Canadian Human Resiliency Program, which might be humanity's last hope for survival...
Midgard by Jeanne Hull Godfrey is a fun and interesting sci-fi dystopia novel and the first in an apparent series of sci-fi novels. With that said, it seems to be filled to the brim with a lot of the same sci-fi cliches and apocalyptic plagues that we've seen and read dozens of times before in books like THAW, Grydscaen Dark, and Left Alive. Almost every sci-fi and dystopia cliché is here, except maybe extreme torture and execution. This does make it more appropriate for a younger audience than others. You might even compare it to something like The Giver in that sense.
There's the repressive government hiding something and their “public safety” officers, there's the need to apply and gain permission in order to have children, and there's the climate being unstable thanks to mankind releasing excessive amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere (and, well, blowing things up in the last war).
At least the book covers the basics and did what it needed to do. It's solid and sufficient. Your kids and teens will be entertained. The characters are good, the world-building is solid, the plot is buried in there somewhere (with breadcrumbs hinting at a sequel), and there are some intriguing concepts sprinkled throughout. It is a solid sci-fi book.
If this is your first sci-fi or dystopia novel, it might wow and amaze you.
And you know what? It turns out that this was the author's debut novel, so you have to give them credit for putting out a competent story with decent entertainment value.
Sam is a solid protagonist for us to follow—a well-meaning dreamer who develops a strong, pseudo-romantic/pseudo-friend relationship with the heroine, Tamara Ashraf. Sam has a gift, not only being the son of a brilliant scientist but also being the human being to survive the most times through the daunted “Tunnel.” Sam is also a very emotionally complex person. Something that really motivates him is his desire to protect Tamara and his mother. However, he doesn't always express himself in the best possible way. He is angsty at times—anxious, apprehensive, and insecure—despite the fact that his great gifts should grant him the superhuman confidence to go where no man has gone before.
Sam and Tamara make a great team for much of the novel. Sam clearly loves and cares for Tamara, but does she reciprocate his feelings? And can Sam get over his apprehensions?
One pillar of this book is the love-triangle between Sam, Tamara, and Hector Ramirez, creating a rather interesting and tense character dynamic as all three must coexist and work together while the world is essentially ending.
World-building takes center stage in this book. The author clearly tried to put across the idea of a dying world. It's debatable if they succeeded or not. Yes, you get reminded about the world war, the pandemic, and climate change. Yes, the Doomsday Clock is nearing midnight (you're reminded of this multiple times). It just feels like something's... missing. It's hard to put our finger on it. We faced this problem early in the year with Left Alive. Maybe we're just desensitized to disaster stories. We've read so many, and many of them are incredibly similar.
Compare this to The Last Keeper of the Light in which the world was an absolute wasteland in which people scavenged for food (including rats and bugs) and formed violent tribal groups which fought, mutilated, and massacred each other... this book never quite gets that gritty. Yes, the government stinks and is definitely hiding something, but it just doesn't have the same oppressive feel that something like Hunger Games or 1984 had. It never seems so dire or so harsh.
Even the concept of Capsule, probably the most important plot device in the background of this story, is a lot like plot devices in other sci-fi/dystopia stories like THAW by AC Kabukuru or the concept of “SEEDS” in Trigun.
The character-centered part of the story involves Sam's involvement in the military academy, Verdi. Now, this aspect of the story really reminded us of Academy Bound by JC Maestro, a book we called “Hogwarts in space.” A lot of this book focuses on Sam learning as a kind of space marine or pilot and associating with others academy, namely Tamara and Hector. There's even a director of operations character named Gage (Dr. Stephen Gage) who fills the same leadership role that the Gage in Academy Bound does.
As mentioned before, Sam is special because he is said to be the human being who has transversed the obstacle known as “The Tunnel” the most number of times and lived to tell the tale. His movements through the tunnel are evaluated to be unlike anyone else in history. So, he is given special responsibilities and a leadership position, something which causes some tension between him and Tamara—a brainiac and workaholic who feels she deserves the promotion just as much as Sam (if not more). However, they develop a friendship that forms the heart of the book.
Sam and Tamara are, ultimately, good people who you want to root for. They're good people who are rough around the edges. What more could you ask for in a protagonist? They're solid for their function. Now, do they have the same chemistry that Glenn and Maya had in Fifty-Three Tuesdays? No. But they're sufficient, and the chemistry is clear and comprehensible.
This book seems a bit slow until a crisis involving freak tornadoes sweeps up the convoy of lead characters. The idea is puts forward that a weather-based weapon is being used by some sort of insurgency. It reminded us of the time Cobra employed the Weather Dominator in GI Joe. Anyway, a lot of mystery surrounds this apparent attack and the weapon used during it...
Who employed this weather-based weapon and why? What is the government hiding? Will humanity find a way to survive the apocalypse? And who will Tamara ultimately choose to give her heart to?
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