Sunday, October 12, 2014

Rebel Scum!

When I was younger, I wanted a t-shirt or mug or something with "Rebel Scum" on it.  I never purchased anything, because I didn't know where I would wear it or use it.  Clearly, I didn't foresee becoming a librarian, which means I am also a full-time geek.

Yeah, of course I want the rebels to win.  I want to be a Jedi.  But you have to admit that the Empire has some seriously good graphic design.  Stormtrooper style is iconic, and well, Darth Vader.  Instantly recognizable.  You don't know the power of the Dark Side of the Force!

So what does all this gibberish have to do with a book about sort-of-but-not-really zombies?  Well, not much.  It involves rebels ... although these rebels are not fighting a totalitarian Galactic Empire.  No, they're fighting something much scarier: other humans.

In Reboot, Amy Tintera introduced us to Wren 178.  The number stands for the number of hours she was dead before she Rebooted.  In the not-so-distant future, mankind will become infected by a virus. For some, it's lethal.  For others--especially children and teens--it restores them to life after death, making them practically superhuman.  Like your usual zombie (is there such a thing), the are Rules for Rebooting: not everyone Reboots.  The longer you are dead before Rebooting, the stronger and more detached of a Reboot you'll be.  Reboots can only be killed by a head shot or decapitation.  They all have the same color eyes and regenerate at a ridiculously fast rate.

I'm tired after all that info-dumping.  Sorry for that.  Anyway, Wren has the highest Reboot number in her HARC (Human Advancement and Repopulation Corporation)training camp--maybe in all of the Republic of Texas.  When she's assigned to train Callum, a lowly double-digit Reboot, she's irritated.  She doesn't think she's human anymore, but their mutual attraction proves otherwise.  This was a YA romance that I didn't mind, strangely.  It was a bit fast but it made sense.

In Rebel, Wren, Callum, and a horde of Reboots from Austin have broken out of the facility, crossed into the desert, and found the Reboots living out there.  Wren and Callum quickly discover that Micah, leader of the free Reboots, is a megalomaniac at best.  His idea of the perfect world is to just get rid of all the humans.  After all, doesn't the Reboot virus create better humans?  Humans who are stronger and smarter than their non-Rebooted kin?  Isn't this natural selection in action?  Wren's logic tells her that Micah's plan makes sense, but the heart that Callum proved that she has feels uneasy.

Unfortunately, I didn't like Rebel as much as I liked Reboot, but it was a good conclusion to this duology.  In Reboot, the plot was twisty and full of monkey wrenches.  Readers of Rebel can pretty much guess the main plot and how everything is going to end up.  The action scenes in the second half of the book could get a bit confusing, with people going between old and new versions of cities in Texas (pre- and post-war cities), people getting captured, escaping, captured by other people, more escaping, breaking in, breaking out--it was exhausting.

I liked that Tintera chose to alternate chapters between Callum and Wren.  Their perspectives on things are often diametrically opposed, so it's interesting to view a decision or a problem from their respective viewpoints.  Callum is a lot more fleshed out in this one as well--he's a strategist.  In a fun twist on the girl-and-guy action-adventure, Callum is the brains and Wren is the brawn.

Tintera brings up a lot of good thinking points about humanity, loyalty, and what it means to be alive. If humans now cannot live in peace with other humans just because their skin color is different, what would happen if a virus created a whole new subset of humanity?  Are they still really human after having been dead?  How much did the virus change them?  Are they simply tools for humans to use, or do they have self-determination?  That's a lot of Big Questions to consider, and in the end of Rebel, no one's figured out the perfect answer.  Which is just as it would be.

However, this is a solid zombie-esque thriller for teens that (praise be!) doesn't have a love triangle and features a strong female protagonist.

So, if I were to totally stretch my Star Wars metaphor, regular humans would be like the Empire, in that they want to maintain total control and create an army of Reboot Stormtroopers to hunt down Rebel humans and Rebel Reboots.  Guess who wins?

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