Monday, April 14, 2014

Monument 14: Sky on Fire

What's your blood type?

Monument 14 is the second book/series that I've read recently that deals with blood type as a delineator of the population--the other is Orleans by Sherri Smith, which I cannot recommend highly enough.  But that's another story.

There are real advantages to using something biological like blood type in a post-apocalyptic/mildly-dystopian book.  Instead of being divided geographically (The Hunger Games) or by personality (Divergent), you're distinguished from others by who you are, physically.  It's not something you can control.  You can't choose a blood type like you can choose a faction, nor can you run away from it like you can a District.  It's you.  That's all there is to it.  (Note: I am not, in any way, criticizing the systems used in either The Hunger Games or Divergent.  I'm just using them illustratively.)

In Monument 14, the first book of the trilogy, not only does the weather have a massive conniption, raining down deadly hail, but the defense labs at NORAD are breached, releasing a biological weapon into the atmosphere.  That weapon, which Laybourne elaborates on in her short story in the Fierce Reads Anthology, affects people differently based on their blood type.

A: Blood blisters.  It's like you're being boiled--inside and out.  Short exposure means small blisters, while prolonged exposure basically just melts your flesh.  Not a pretty or pleasant way to go.  Not that people who design biochemical weapons really care about that.  "Oh, gee, hope you have a great time dying!"  Nope.

AB: Paranoid delusions.  This can be every bit as deadly as the blisters.  If you can't trust your friends, and you can't trust your own mind, then things are going to go south pretty quickly.

B: Sexual dysfunction.  I suppose that for some people this would be absolutely terrifying, but most of the characters in the book, despite being teens and therefore RAGING HORMONAL IDIOTS (not really, but you know, teenagers) take this rather well.  I mean, I'd rather be infertile than incinerated.

O:  In an ironic twist, the "universal donor" becomes the most lethal.  The compound is like a massive adrenaline hit, combined with blinding rage and an obsession with killing.  Os are obviously the most dangerous.

Quick recap of Monument 14:  Aforementioned bad things happen, and 14 kids take refuge in a Greenway, which is kind of like a Super Wal-Mart or SuperTarget.  Their bus driver, Mrs. Wooly, leaves, but promises to send help.  6 of the refugees are teens, and 6 are little kids.  They create their own sort of family in order to survive, and the character exploration is really fantastic.  Laybourne brings up some very real and gritty problems (drug abuse, pregnancy, and rape) but doesn't glamorize them or go into the nitty gritty detail.  In the end, the kids caulk up the bus that Mrs. Wooly left behind, swathe themselves in protective gear, and head off to Denver International Airport, because that's where help is supposed to be.  All of them except two of the teens and three of the kids--type Os.

Sky on Fire picks up directly where Monument 14 left off.  Laybourne helpfully recaps all of the characters for us in a form of an SOS written by Alex, the younger brother of our main male character Dean (he's the boy at the Greenway).  Almost immediately, the bus runs into a lot of trouble, while Dean, Astrid, and the three kids at the Greenway continue to protect themselves against looters and murderers.  Dean is extremely attracted to Astrid, but there are three big problems here:
1) Astrid has a boyfriend, Jake.  Jake took one of the guns and abandoned them, but still.  Popular boyfriend.
2) Astrid herself is popular and pretty.  Dean is ... not.
3) Astrid is pregnant.
Yikes.

When people start coming back, and a bunch of military students take over the Greenway, Dean and Astrid have to protect the little ones and stay alive.  Meanwhile, the bus group has to make it 60 miles to DIA--on foot.

I really enjoyed Sky on Fire, but my main quibble is that it isn't long enough!  I wanted mooooore of everything.  Greedy, I know, but I think I'm entitled to be greedy when the first book was so stinking good.  I also thought the sexytimes scene was a bit cringey, but mercifully brief and definitely not explicit (yay!).  Laybourne actually keeps this pretty clean, as the characters often use curse-substitutes instead of the real deal.  That's definitely a good idea when you're trying to keep 6 little ones calm and alive!

The scenes with the military were done really well, and I loved the twisty ending.  So happy there's a third one of this!  I hope Laybourne keeps writing, and writing, and writing.

This series is definitely still a two-thumbs-up from me, and I can't wait until May for Savage Drift.

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