Sunday, August 25, 2013

Suspension of disbelief

I hadn't read any of D.J. MacHale's books until his latest, Sylo. MacHale is probably best known for the Pendragon series, of which there are about ten, plus a set of prequels. He takes up a lot of library real estate. Sylo is first in a series too, and having purchased it for the library, I decided to give it a try.

Sylo, published by an imprint of Penguin Books, is a sci-fi thriller set on an island in Maine. Tucker Pierce is an average kid, having moved to the island from Connecticut with his parents. After witnessing the death of a classmate and seeing a strange explosion in the sky, Tucker and his friend Quinn are disconcerted that their safe haven of Pemberwick Island is no longer so safe. When a strange military outfit named SYLO invades the island and quarantines the place, effectively cutting off Pemberwick from the outside world, Tucker must accept that nothing is as it seems.

Running parallel to the military occupation plot line is that of a mysterious substance called the Ruby, which gives anyone who uses it superhuman speed and strength. It is unclear if this is why the island is quarantined, but a shady character named Mr. Feit gives it to residents prior to the military occupation.

Tucker, Quinn, and another classmate Tori are quickly in the crosshairs of SYLO's commander, Granger. They must try to escape the island and expose SYLO since they believe the quarantine is bogus and there is something fishy going on.

I had mixed feelings about this book. On one hand I liked it a lot-- I spent most of last night turning pages to see what would happen. It has gripping moments. On the other hand, it was farfetched and just ok. The drug pusher, Mr. Feit, is a poorly created character and is clearly a warning "Don't do drugs, kids!" The escape scenes are decent, as is the boating terminology, but it still seems contrived. Tucker's sort-of-infatuation with Tori is a convenient plot device, but there is no meat. Most of the characters are stock-- the brainy friend, the pretty tourist girl, the wealthy jock, the cold soldier. I came across two usage errors (taught instead of taut and mantle instead of mantel) which pulled me out of the story.

All that being said, I would skim the next two series installments to see what happens. Despite its flaws, I am curious as to what happens next. I classify this book as middle grade, so grades 5 and up. Not fabulous, certainly not flawless, but definitely intriguing.

Ex libris,


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