Once I’ve hit my CBR goal, I often skip reviewing the “meh” books, because there’s just not that much to say. But since this is only #4 for the year, here I go!
I made my family watch Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves on a questionably regular basis when I was a teen (Christian Slater, swoon! We also watched Kuffs and Heathers a LOT.). My dad used to scoff whenever Kevin Costner tried to do a big speech. “They’re supposed to follow that man into battle? I wouldn’t follow him into a K-Mart!” I kind of felt like that about Verity, who is such a damp dishrag of a protagonist that I couldn’t believe it when the book tried to make her the Neo/Mary Sue/Chosen One halfway through.
Verity is growing up in Shaker Hill, with a group of survivors who are living off the land and petrified of all technology (the apocalypse was caused by out-of-control nanobots). There’s some kind of plague you can get from technology, and once you get it, you go crazy, get on a raft, and float down to New Orleans. No idea why, no idea what happens to you, no idea what’s in New Orleans (or Norleans, in this future world). When a bunch of people get sick and get an urge to start rafting, the leader of the group gets agitated and shoots Blaze, Verity’s best friend (and possible love interest? Unclear, and all sex is forbidden by the colony). Some other guy wraps Blaze in magic nano-sheets and tells Verity the sheets may keep Blaze alive until she can get him to Cincinnati, where the technology may still exist to cure him.
Then it gets weird, but also boring. Cincinnati is inside a wall made by nanobots, full of people who aren’t real. They’re uploaded memories, or regular people who wanted to be downloaded into famous people (lots of jazz musicians). The city is run by giant Bees, who gather information like pollen, and when the queen gets bored/mad/hungry/unclear, she reboots the whole place and starts over. Verity has to get Blaze in, figure out how to work the magic sheets, and get them both out before the Bees discover and reboot her.
Semi-spoilers here, but not huge ones because nothing really makes sense. Verity breaks into the Hive, and finds younger versions of herself being grown. So maybe she’s lived through all this before? Maybe she’s meant to be the next queen?
For someone who’s supposed to be on a life-saving quest, Verity is almost completely directionless. She changes her mind constantly and drifts from NPC to NPC to be fed, housed, saved from drowning, whatever. The technology makes no sense, the flashbacks from the creator of the nano-Bees are annoying (“I have all the answers but I can’t tell you…YET.”), and even the end goal is unclear. Save Blaze? Save the city? Destroy the city? Rule the city? Who knows!
Plus, there’s a super unnecessary, super random (possibly super creepy, since I think Verity was supposed to be 16 or so) sex scene thrown in there. I think that she was trying to control her own destiny and not be led by Bee-programming, but girl, do not have sex with an old jazz musician to assert your independence while trying to save your dead boyfriend.
Okay, so I guess I did have some things to say about a “meh” book. I would not want Verity to lead me through post-apocalyptic Ohio. I would not even want her to lead me through a K-Mart.