Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Review: Avalon by Mindee Arnett

Avalon by Mindee Arnett
Series: Avalon #1
Genre: Sci-Fi (YA)
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Of the various star systems that make up the Confederation, most lie thousands of light-years from First Earth-and out here, no one is free. The agencies that govern the Confederation are as corrupt as the crime bosses who patrol it, and power is held by anyone with enough greed and ruthlessness to claim it. That power is derived from one thing: metatech, the devices that allow people to travel great distances faster than the speed of light.

Jeth Seagrave and his crew of teenage mercenaries have survived in this world by stealing unsecured metatech, and they're damn good at it. Jeth doesn't care about the politics or the law; all he cares about is earning enough money to buy back his parents' ship, Avalon, from his crime-boss employer and getting himself and his sister, Lizzie, the heck out of Dodge. But when Jeth finds himself in possession of information that both the crime bosses and the government are willing to kill for, he is going to have to ask himself how far he'll go to get the freedom he's wanted for so long. (from Goodreads)

It's a given that there a just some things I don't like in books. No matter how well written otherwise they are, there are a few things that will cause me to write the book off. One of the big ones for me is secrets. I hate it when secrets are kept just to keep them or to use as a crutch when the plot needs to move.

But, let's start at the beginning.

I picked up this book because I've heard a lot of people say this book is like teenaged Firefly fanfic. Actually, they might be right, but I've read fan fiction better than this book. Comparing this book to Firefly does the show a great disservice. First of all, Mal Reynolds is actually charming. Yeah, okay, he might be narrow minded and doesn't really respect his love interest's chosen profession, but even through all that, he is charming. (After typing that, I do have to wonder if that charm might be Nathan Fillion's charm…)

Jeth Seagrave isn't charming. He's a seventeen year old that doesn't let anyone besides his little sister call him Jethro. He also hates being called Boss and Captain. It's Jeth. So, right there, we have this teenager that's trying to be cool without actually being cool. (Seriously, he got a big black mark when I found out he doesn't like being called Boss.) The whole 'being cool' was played much better by a crew member of his who goes by the name Shady. His actual name is Will Shady and, when you have such a nice name as Will, it's a shame to use Shady. Which is a name that kept bringing to mind Slim Shady. Not a comparison you want when you are first introduced to a character.

Back to Jeth and all the problems he is. He keeps secrets from his crew. He always thinks he has to do it himself because he's the…leader. (See, I didn't call him captain.) Really, Jeth isn't a guy, nor does he even sound like one with his infatuation with his love interest. He acts more like a somewhat weepy girl than a hardened mercenary working for a cruel crime lord. If it wasn't for him and his secrets and epically bad decisions, the book would have been none existent.

Maybe if I'd gotten to spend time in other people's heads, I would have felt better toward this book and it's characters. It probably also would have fleshed out these paper thin people better. Really, I've heard people compare the characters to Firefly, too, but they're not even stereotypes. They're nothing more than cardboard cutouts with one defining personality trait. A trait that is recycled every time they get two minutes in the book to say something or act independently. Another reviewer described their feeling toward the book as 'detached' - and that perfectly explains my feelings toward the characters.

The plotline was excessively meh. Honestly, the 'plot twists' were so obvious it was painful how long it took Jeth to catch on. By about the halfway/two-thirds point, I was starting to find the book way too depressing. In all fairness, I don't like depressing books at all. Especially not depressing sci-fi. I feel that science fiction should be about hope. This book lived in a pit of 'it'll never get better' both with the thoughts and actions of the main character as well as the events that actually happen. Really, I wouldn't say that most of the main characters are in a better position at the end of the book than they were at the beginning. (Which, I gotta admit, left me wondering why I bothered.)

The book has a very unfinished feel to it. That's not to say the writing isn't polished. Really, I didn't catch any typos or sentences I had to read again to understand. By unfinished, I mean that the story isn't close to over. It feels like we accomplished very little. Really, this is about the only place a Firefly comparison is accurate because this book felt like one very long pilot episode. There are so many loose strands still hanging that the fans of this book are probably thrilled to know it's getting a sequel.

I've just gotta add something, I was reading reviews on this book and someone summed up exactly what I thought about this entire book. I just couldn't find the right word, but the word is 'heart'. This book lacks heart.

I know, I mentioned Firefly several times, but in all honesty, the comparisons to that show was the main reason I bought this book. I was hoping, if I agreed with the other readers, that I had finally found a sci-fi book that I'd like. Alas, it was not to be.