Book Review: The Rise of Nine, Pittacus Lore (2012)

Monday, December 10th, 2012

Doesn’t live up to the potential of I AM NUMBER FOUR.

three out of five stars

* Warning: moderate spoilers follow! *

The third novel in the Lorien Legacies series (there are also three novellas, each published between books two and three), The Rise of Nine begins where The Power of Six ended. After successfully beating back Mogadorian soldiers, Six flees Spain with Seven, Ten, and Crayton. Their destination: India, the suspected hiding place of a fellow member of the Garde. Meanwhile, John is back in West Virginia, recovering from effects of a Mogadorian force field. With him is the increasingly obnoxious Nine; goofy, lovable Sam is still in the hands of the Mogs. The story follows these two groups as they attempt to make contact while evading the Mogadorian hordes – not to mention, the increasingly hostile US government. Eventually they (re)unite in a government facility (conveniently constructed around a Loric ship!) in New Mexico. Naturally, their party is crashed by archenemy Setrákus Ra; the scene for the final battle is set at book’s end. I find myself apathetic at best.

While I quite enjoyed I Am Number Four, the later books in the series have been rather disappointing. With a focus on action over storytelling, the constant skirmishes – from which our heroes almost always emerge unscathed, despite overwhelming odds – are at times repetitive and boring. While their shared heritage links them, the seven remaining members of the Garde have lived vastly different lives – yet, the author can’t seem to get a feel for their disparate voices. Through each subsequent book, the characters remain two-dimensional sketches, mere outlines of what – who – they could be. I had hoped that the writing would improve from I Am Number Four onward, but…not so much.

As with The Power of Six, this story is told by multiple narrators, namely John, Six, and Seven (Marina). Although I was less than impressed with this technique when it was introduced in the previous novel (preview chapters suggested that the POV was changing from John to Marina; consequently, the sharing of narrative responsibilities felt like a nasty bit of bait and switch), I think it’s both a necessary and effective strategy in The Rise of Nine. As the members of the Garde begin to assemble for battle, they travel in two groups: Four and Nine and Six, Seven, Eight, and Ten. Multiple narrators help to tell their separate but converging stories simultaneously. Even so, it can prove confusing at times. The change in narrator is marked by different fonts – easy enough to distinguish when there are just two, this becomes a more challenging task when there are three or more fonts to keep track of.

The mix of magic and technology, fantasy and science fiction, becomes increasingly complex (in a straining credulity kind of way) as the Garde’s most formidable Mogadorian opponent, Setrákus Ra, appears to them in visions. They discover special communication devices in their chest – corresponding transmitters and receivers – that allow the members to contact one another…in the most inefficient way possible. (And the Mogadorians? Still able to track these communications!) Loric stones are revealed to be teleportation devices. For reasons not fully explained, John becomes convinced that he’s the next coming of Pittacus Lore. And so on and so forth.

Cheesy elementary school romances abound as the remaining Loriens meet. It seems a female Legacy can’t meet a boy without developing an instant crush – and vice versa. (Apparently gay people don’t exist in this fantasy universe.) The love square between John, Sara, Six, and Sam was annoying enough; keep this up, and by story’s end we might very well be treated to a love octagram! Unless it becomes one huge “free love” polyamorous relationship, thanks but no thanks.

(Also, I love how these kids are teenagers – sixteen, seventeen – but they speak of “making out” as though it’s some huge thing. So quaint! Either the authors are being overly cautious about teen sex, or this is a peek at what sheltered, lonely lives the members of the Garde have lived. Since the author lacks such subtlety, my vote’s for option a!)

Marginally more interesting than The Power of Six, The Rise of Nine is a fun enough read, but not much more. Borrow it from the library for your next trip to the beach – or see it in the theater, assuming the sequels ever make it to the big screen.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined.)

Book Review: I Am Number Four: The Lost Files: The Legacies, Pittacus Lore (2012)

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

A minor improvement over Books 2 and 3.

three out of five stars

*Caution! Minor spoilers ahead!*

The confusingly-titled I Am Number Four: The Lost Files: The Legacies is actually a collection of three novellas previously released in ebook format: Six’s Legacy (July 2011), Nine’s Legacy (February 2012), and The Fallen Legacies (July 2012). A fourth novella, The Search for Sam, is scheduled for a December 2012 release. The materials in The Lost Files: The Legacies were published after Book #2 (The Power of Six) but before Book #3 (The Rise of Nine) in the Lorien Legacies series – just to give you an idea of the story’s timeline.

That said, you can either read The Lost Files: The Legacies in order of its publication, or after finishing Book #3 – there’s nothing in the former that will impact the reader’s understanding of the latter. In fact, I saved The Lost Files: The Legacies for last, and ultimately prefer it this way. Some of the stories in The Lost Files: The Legacies altered my perceptions of certain characters – characters that weren’t fully fleshed out until Book #3.

Narrated by Number Six, “Six’s Legacy” paints a more detailed picture of Six’s history than we were given in previous books – but not by much. We learn a little bit more about her childhood, as well as her relationship with her Cêpan, Katarina, and their capture and imprisonment in a Mogadorian mountain cave in West Virginia. Whereas I would’ve liked to be a party to Katarina’s stories of life on Lorien, the author doesn’t revisit these quieter scenes, instead focusing on conflicts and near-misses. Coming in at a mere 91 pages, I can’t say that I walked away with a greater understanding of Six as a person.

As with “Six’s Legacy,” Nine serves as the narrator of his own novella, “Nine’s Legacy.” When I mentioned that this anthology is best read last because it may change how you view certain (previously unsympathetic) characters, I was referring primarily to Nine. Though he appears cocky, reckless, and self-absorbed in The Power of Six and The Rise of Nine, Nine starts off as a rather likable guy – teenage male bravado aside. It’s only after a friend’s betrayal leads to his capture and the murder of his Cêpan that Nine develops a thick shell of indifference and an unquenchable, unyielding desire for revenge.

“The Fallen Legacies” is perhaps the most interesting of the three. Unlike the other novellas, this story isn’t told by a member of the Garde (namely, Numbers One, Two, and/or Three – the “fallen legacies” alluded to in the title), but by a young Mogadorian. As the son of a high-ranking Mogadorian General, Adamus “Adam” Sutekh is expected to follow in his father’s footsteps: become an obedient, unquestioning soldier for the cause and, one day, a Mog ruler on Earth. Hiding in plain sight in a Mogadorian enclave on Earth (read: an exclusive gated community outside of Washington, DC), he’s a witness to the deaths of One, Two, and Three, with varying degrees of involvement. In many ways, these events are milestones in Adam’s life, markers on his road to adulthood.

(More below the fold…)

Book Review: I Am Number Four, Pittacus Lore (2010)

Friday, July 27th, 2012

Four stars for I Am Number Four

four out of five stars

Not so much a review as a random collection of thoughts, but you get the idea!

  • The basic premise of the Lorien Legacies series is this: we are not alone. Besides Earth, multiple planets capable of sustaining life exist in the universe. Among these are Lorien and Mogadore, whose contrasting pasts and presents reflect two possible futures for Earth.

    Much like Earth today, in its early history Lorien was faced with ecological collapse. Caused by greed and fueled by rapid technological advancements, the Loric people were quickly depleting their planet’s resources, driving it ever closer to ruin. Rather than continue on this self-destructive path, the Loriens chose another way: they simplified their society, living sustainably and in harmony with nature. (Just what this entails isn’t clear. For example, there’s no indication that the Loriens are/were vegans, nor do they seem to have renounced their “ownership” of nonhuman animals.)

    In thanks, the planet endowed the Loriens with special gifts. While all Loriens are stronger, faster, and more powerful than the average human, roughly half of the population have additional, supernatural abilities: Telekinesis. The ability to control the elements. Invisibility. The gift of flight. Imperviousness to fire. They are members of the Garde, the superhuman – or rather super-Lorien – protectors of the planet. Behind the scenes, the Cêpan manage the society and act as mentors to young Gardes who are just discovering their Legacies. At the time of our hereos’ births, Lorien is a veritable Eden, with everyone coexisting in peace and harmony.

    Mogadore offers a terrifying glimpse of the road not taken by Lorien. Faced with a similar fate, the Mogadorians deplete their planet’s resources, turning it into a barren hellscape – and then set out to conquer other planets and plunder their resources as well. The first of these is Lorien, which is caught with its guard down and is taken easily. Save for a lucky few, all of the Loric people are slaughtered. Lorien is laid to waste.

    Obvious moral is obvious, though no less true. We are at a crossroads; will we emulate the peaceable Lorien, or – be it through, antipathy, stubbornness, or privilege – go the way of Mogadore? Human history, rife as it is with genocide, colonization, slavery, and wars of convenience, does not speak well of us.

    (More below the fold…)