Friday, May 3, 2013

Review: "Reboot" by Amy Tintera

Author: Amy Tintera.
Publisher: Harper Teen (release date: May 7th 2013). 
Pages: 352. 
Summary (taken from Goodreads): Five years ago, Wren Connolly was shot three times in the chest. After 178 minutes she came back as a Reboot: stronger, faster, able to heal, and less emotional. The longer Reboots are dead, the less human they are when they return. Wren 178 is the deadliest Reboot in the Republic of Texas. Now seventeen years old, she serves as a soldier for HARC (Human Advancement and Repopulation Corporation). 

Wren’s favorite part of the job is training new Reboots, but her latest newbie is the worst she’s ever seen. As a 22, Callum Reyes is practically human. His reflexes are too slow, he’s always asking questions, and his ever-present smile is freaking her out. Yet there’s something about him she can’t ignore. When Callum refuses to follow an order, Wren is given one last chance to get him in line—or she’ll have to eliminate him. Wren has never disobeyed before and knows if she does, she’ll be eliminated, too. But she has also never felt as alive as she does around Callum. 
The perfect soldier is done taking orders.
It’s no coincidence that the book “Reboot” is being compared to most is “Divergent”. Indeed, this is a comparison that the publishers must welcome. After all, “Divergent” is one of the few YA series of the past few years that justified the huge amount of hype it received and continues to dominate the NYT bestseller list. I believe its success is down to two main elements: A great publicity campaign and a marketable central premise. While “Reboot” has built up a significant amount of hype, particularly amongst bloggers, the story just isn’t there.
In many ways, “Reboot” and “Divergent” are incredibly similar. The reboots of the title, essentially an army of super strong zombies controlled by the state, bear more than a passing resemblance to the Dauntless of Roth’s world, including sharing a penchant for unnecessary violence, something I’ll get to later. Romance plays an overwhelming role in each story, far more than is really necessary, and the heroines both bugged me to kingdom come. There is one main reason “Reboot” fails and it’s also similar to “Divergent”, although the former is better written.
The plot holes are so large that I could navigate the wreck of the Titanic through them. In this world, reboots are less prone to emotions than humans. Wren, the heroine of the story, frequently talks about having no emotions but will immediately follow that up with a description of how she’s feeling. It reminded me of a moment in “Futurama” where Bender talks about how as a robot he doesn’t feel emotions and that makes him sad. It’s so blindingly obvious in its clumsiness, both in terms of prose and storytelling, that I wonder how the editors could miss it. This becomes even more distracting when Wren continues to insist that she is cold and emotionless. She clearly isn’t, especially when she’s mooning over her dull and very annoying love interest. The science of the reboots is messy and haphazardly explained at best. I rolled my eyes a lot when Wren talks about how dying and being rebooted automatically makes you more attractive, because zombie soldiers need to be sexy for reasons unknown. I wonder if anything is allowed to be unattractive in YA anymore when even the undead have to be sexed up like this, especially when it has absolutely no bearing on the plot. Even Stephenie Meyer briefly explained why her sparkly vampires all looked like GQ models.
The action scenes are actually pretty well written in terms of content and pacing, and they certainly outdo anything Roth wrote in “Divergent”, but they’re few and far between and shoved into a plot that is quickly dismissed in favour of romance. Callum, the cut-out love interest of the day, is just too irritating. His humour falls flat too often and he fails in his obvious objective of being the moral emotional core of the story in contrast to Wren. He can’t be the emotional contrast to the cold zombie when said cold zombie won’t shut up about her feelings. The supporting cast failed to leave any impression on me and I can’t remember any of their names.
I have a feeling the author was somewhat aware of this emotional plot hole and decided to use violence as a way to counteract it. Wren is bloodthirsty, to say the least. She has no qualms with essentially slaughtering humans, and it comes across as rather gratuitous in the novel. She is constantly talking about how she wants to kill humans and it felt a little too serial killer in places. It certainly doesn’t endear you to the protagonist.
I think many readers will like “Reboot” a lot and I certainly see its appeal as a possible movie (albeit one with some serious script editing) but it fell flat for me. In terms of prose, it’s stronger than “Divergent”, extreme bouts of info-dumping aside, but it also exhibits too many of the problems of that series, particularly in terms of thinly stretched world-building, characterisation, romance and the portrayal of violence. I’m not entirely convinced this will be the hit that Roth’s series has become. I would pass on this one and go watch the series of “Aeon Flux” instead.
“Reboot” will be released on May 7th in USA. I received my ARC from Edelweiss.