Showing posts with label Amy Tintera. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Amy Tintera. Show all posts

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Reboot by Amy Tintera

Rating: WARTY!

If Nicole Ritchie had ever written a zombie novel, it would have been this.

The story is of this world where a new virus runs riot through the human population. A side effect of the virus is that when people die, they sometimes come back to life - rebooted. They are six million dollar people: faster, stronger, more good looking (I am not kidding you!). And young. Adults, for reasons unexplained (a heck of a lot is unexplained here), do not do well on reboot. The reboot (a title chosen only for kewl factor, and no other reason, evidently) is known by the number of minutes it was between death and rebooting, so the main character is 178 (which is of course very unusual in its magnitude, to the point where she's legendary). Her real name is Wren. What? Yes, Wren! Weird. I frequently felt like giving Wren the bird. She was not kick-ass. She wasn't even interesting.

The world-building is poor. I'm not one of these readers who demands excellent world-building. I don't care if it's sketchy if the story itself is good, but even by my low standards, the world-building in this novel was atrocious. The status quo was just put out there as fact with no effort at any kind of backstory or any sort of explanation as to why it was this way. I don't want an info-dump, of course, but some credible words here and there about how things came to be as they are is really required if the story doesn't make it self-evident, and this was far from it.

Let's ask a few questions which this novel fails to answer: Why would a virus evolve to reboot people? Nature has no plan of self-improvement. The purpose of life is to survive and to reproduce, and a virus, even though it is on the border between biochemistry and chemistry, is no different. It has no agenda. Unless what happens to its host is beneficial to the virus spreading, there is no evolutionary impetus to promote it. So how would a virus evolve which revivifies people and makes them pretty? It makes no sense at all. What a virus needs is a host which doesn't die so quickly that the virus fails to spread. That's it! That's all! There is no benefit to resurrecting the host once it's dead or in prolonging life bizarrely, much less in bringing back the dead. Indeed, with Ebola, it was the fact that the host became bloody and died which helped it to spread given the practices of some peoples in various African nations, in preparing the dead for burial. The same kind of thing help Kuru to spread amongst the Fore people of Papua New Guinea, although Kuru is a prion disease, not a viral one.

Even if we buy into this though, how does this virus do what it does? Why does the person die rather than just become prettier, and faster and stronger? Given that they do die, how are they brought back to life? Nothing in nature does this - not literally die and come back to life - so where did this even come from? If it's merely a form of hibernation, then why call it death? What does this bizarre turn of events do to suicidal people? Do suicides increase? Decrease? Are people killing themselves so they can come back pretty, and strong and fast? We're not told, because this is a first person PoV novel and we're limited, confined, hobbled, constrained, and cocooned - in every sense of those restrictive words - to the perspective of Wren. This brings me to my next issue: even if we accept all of this so far, why would a reboot tell a story like this? Given the reboot's character and the perspective she gives us on reboots, it makes no sense that one of them would narrate their life, and even if we allow that one would, then the very least likely one to do this would be Wren. Again, no sense!

Viruses, with very few exceptions, are literally microscopic things which contain very little DNA. They require the host's DNA to even reproduce. In short, there is insufficient DNA even in the largest of viruses, to make all those changes to physiology that this story requires. There is no mutant X gene as Marvel comics would have it, that can give rise to a gazillion different and beneficial mutations. It doesn't happen.

Why is there no commentary on what the religious community had to say about people being resurrected? The novel is completely silent with regard to what religious leaders had to say about this! Not that I personally care what they have to say, but the fact is that if people started being resurrected, the christian religious community in a fundamentalist nation like the USA would be all over this: either seeing it as a sign of the end times and the devil's work, or as a sign of the rapture or something like that. Yet we get not a single word about that here! Again, it's poor world-building. Far too many young adult dystopian authors are like this! They get this one idea and fail comprehensively to apply it to the real world and explore the ramifications of it really happening. This is why they miss out on writing what would have been a much more interesting, faceted, and complex story. Instead we get vapid clones of other dystopian trilogies (they're always trilogies, aren't they, driven by the stark capitalism that is rampant in Big Publishing™?! Sad but true.). It's not interesting. It's not imaginative. It's not inventive. It's really a waste of trees or bandwidth.

Even if we accept all of that(!), then I still have to ask: how did society ever let it happen that these reboots became a police force, instead of simply sending them back to their family? Why do they even need a police force of reboots? Why are we told the reboots are emotionless, when they're obviously subject to emotions? Why label them as "not human" when they're exactly like humans: they laugh, they cry, they dream, they get scared, they have sex, they eat, they sleep. And why train these people to be a very efficient and ruthless para-military force when there has apparently already been strife between them and the non-rebooted humans? Why would they even work for the humans from whom they could simply run away, when they go out on patrol unsupervised? The Stupid is strong with this one. It made no sense to me. There were interesting bits, but also trope and clich├ęd bits which irritated me to no end.

I wouldn't have minded it quite so much if the author didn't flatly contradict every assertion she makes about the reboots. They're supposed to be 'not human', but there is nothing whatsoever about them that is different from humans - except they're faster? They're supposed to be emotionless, yet the record holder for biggest gap between death and reboot - the one who is supposed to be least human and least emotional - behaves exactly like the humans and shares the same emotions. She has her memories from when she was alive previously. How can she have all of this and not be human and not experience emotions? It's not possible.

She says the reboots don't need to eat as much as humans, yet they have a faster metabolism. How does that work exactly? Where does their energy come from? It has to come from somewhere unless this is really a book about magical beasts and where to find them! This is what happens when someone with zero science education starts writing science fiction, and it's not good enough. I don't demand that an author go deep into scientific detail to explain every last detail of the worlds they create, but I do like the world to make sense within the framework they've created. This one was like the kind of story my thirteen-year-old would write: everything is to be taken on pure faith without a shred of foundation being offered, and while I tolerate his stories, I'm not willing to extend that same largesse to an adult writer who should know better, and especially not when there are so many more, better-written novels out there pleading with me to read them! I cannot recommend this one.