The Prey

I prey (ha ha ha!) that this doesn't become The Next Big Thing, because if it does, I'm throwing in the towel.  As it stands right now, on Goodreads this book does not have a very good rating.  Say what you will about GR (I love it because a) it makes me accountable for all the books I want to read and b) is a nice spot to collect my reviews and c) gives me real-reader reviews (alliteration!) for when I'm ordering books), when a book's rating is in the solid two-star range, things are not good.  As of today, it's a 2.23.  I mean, even in figure skating, that basically means you slid around on your butt for four minutes (long program).

Aside from the neuron-murdering boredom that comes from attempting to make sense of any sort of plot, much less see the potential for a trilogy coming out of this, the completely bizarre "writing style" (yes, intentional sarcasm quote time) stunned me.  It was kind of like someone trying to write like T.S. Eliot and Cormac McCarthy and Suzanne Collins all at the same time, but failing at all of it. Actually, I probably insulted all of those authors.  My apologies, authors.

Let's just start with the synopsis.  Whoever wrote this seems to be targeting ... I don't know, dudebros?  I fully admit that I didn't read read it when I requested the ARC--it actually sounded kind of fun.  A twist on The Most Dangerous Game, right?  Here's the synopsis:

"A hot debut trilogy and a riveting story of survival, courage, and romance in a future where creating a master civilization is the only thing prized, no matter the method. After the Omega (the end of the end), 16 year old guys known as LTs discover their overseers are raising them not to be soldiers (lieutenants) as promised, but to be sold as bait because of their Less Than status and hunted for sport. They escape and join forces with a girls’ camp, the Sisters, who have been imprisoned and experimented on for the "good of the Republic," by a government eager to use twins in their dark research. In their plight for freedom, these heroes must find the best in themselves to fight against the worst in their enemies."

"16 year old guys" just doesn't sit well with me.  It sounds like how I would speak in day-to-day conversation with my friends, and not how I would professionally describe a book.  That whole second sentence is a monstrosity of clauses all stuck together.  Actually, the third one isn't much better.  And what does the last sentence even mean?  From what I read of the book, the main characters aren't particularly likable or smart--so how are they our heroes?  There's a difference between "hero" and "protagonist."  "Find the best in themselves to fight against the worst in their enemies?"  First of all, for symmetry's sake, I would have gone with "find the best in themselves to fight the worst in their enemies."  Secondly, is that a movie tagline?  The author is an actor, so I suppose it would make sense for him to write something to be adapted.  

**Note: I fully admit that I've been kind of putting this review off because it would require me to go back to the text and relive my reading experience.  You're welcome.**

It seems that the most quoted and maligned line so far is in the prologue: "Blood.  Purpling.  Coagulating before his eyes."  Okay, so those aren't even proper sentences, but what most people object to is the word "purpling."  There is a verb for "to turn purple:" it's empurpling (my crazy brain was like, sure that's a word, empourprer ... whoops, wrong language).  So, word usage=wrong.  Plus it is just Trying Too Hard.

"He wasn't dead, but if we hadn't found him when we did, he would've been.  Maybe within the hour. Then this story never would've happened."  I wish.

"No one didn't obey an order from Major Karsten."  What ... is that?  Double negative?  Why, yes!  You have choices here, and this is not an acceptable choice.  "No one disobeyed an order" works.  "You didn't disobey Major Karsten," although heavy on the negatives, still works.  I think the impression we (the readers) are supposed to get is that these boys are not well-educated, something that is directly contradicted by their reading habits.  

Major Karsten's "anvil-shaped face" may even have achieved minor legend status by now.  For the record, this is an anvil: 
Thanks for the clarification, Photo Dictionary!

I don't think anyone's head could possibly look like that.  If it did, and that person were still alive, we'd be in a science fiction novel, and that person would be an alien.

"Omega, they called that day.  The end of the end."  Actually, omega is just the last letter in the Greek alphabet, so it's just plain "the end."  Even if you're going Biblical, the phrase is "the Alpha and the Omega"--"the first and the last" or "the beginning and the end."  But who cares!  It sounds catchy, right?

So Omega was "one enormous burst of electromagnetic radiation" that fried civilization.  To get an EMP, generally one detonates a nuclear weapon in the atmosphere, which quickly changes the electromagnetic charge and sort of blasts things.  Basically, in this world, nothing works, except for a convenient amount of Humvees and a movie projector, and a lot of the kids have radiation-induced birth defects.

These boys are kept in camps and they're called LTs, which they all assume to mean "Lieutenant" until someone clues them in that it means "Less Than."  Evidently, this is a giant, soul-smashing revelation and we should now sit in awe of its power.

Okay?  We're good?  Great!  As it also turns out, all the girls are twins (I don't know, I'm just repeating what I've been told) and they're in camps too, and the boys never get to see girls and vice versa.  Which means that when a boy comes into the girls' camp, our main female character, Hope, falls madly in lust with him.  She's there because she and her twin, Faith, got themselves captured after a very successful life on the run.  The Evil Doctor is basically Mengele 2.0 and stuff happens.  

So, Book, our male protagonist, goes on a raid-type thing and ends up at the girls' camp, where Cupid strikes again!  "My eyes were drawn to one prisoner in particular.  She was of medium hight with light brown skin--skin the color of tea--and her hair was covered in a head scarf ... There was some undefinable quality that drew me to her.  It was almost like we had something in common--like there was something about her I already knew."  Instalove alert!  Sound the klaxons!  Also, I don't quite understand the "skin the color of tea" comment, as tea can be many different colors.  

Book wants to escape his camp (of course) and get the girl (duh again) but he's afraid because the wastelands that used to be the rest of the United States are full of "roaming gangs of criminals, referred to as Crazies.  Even scarier were the Skull People, a tribe of primitive militants who killed anyone who dared approach their compounds."  I'm sorry, was this made up by a five year old?  "Crazies" and "Skull People"?  That's the best you could do?  

Meanwhile, back at the ranch Evil Experimentation Camp, Hope and Faith suffer at the hands of Nameless Evil Doctor, and Hope has some pret-ty kinky daydreams.  "Although their encounter seems like a distant dream, she lets herself pretend it's Book who strokes her arms.  She imagines him holding her firmly against her chest, the heat from his body mingling with hers."  Excuse me while I go vomit.  Girl, you met him in passing.  You do not know him.  For all you know, he could be a spy!  A psychopath!  Who knows?  But mmm-hmmmm, that body heat!  

I admit that I gave up here.  I had no reason to continue with this book because it didn't really seem to know what it was trying to accomplish.  Some sort of post-apocalyptic escape that's been done already and done much better.

The other thing that grated on me in the extreme was that Book's narrative was in past tense, and Hope's was in present tense, even though they are occurring at the exact same period in time.  Is this some sort of exercice de style?  Does the author feel like he has something to prove?  Because ... it didn't work.

I know I didn't touch on some of the other "major themes" this book purports to discuss, because it's pretty pointless and you know where this is all going anyway.

There is literally no logical or literary reason for this book to exist.  

I received an ARC from Edelweiss.


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