Sunday, May 24, 2015

YA Guy Reviews... ZEROBOXER by Fonda Lee!

Zeroboxer kicks butt.

YA Guy doesn't say that very often, mainly because it's become such a cliche in YA. How many YA novels and/or main characters have you heard described as "kick-butt" recently? And how many of those same novels and/or main characters actually merited the description?

Well, Zeroboxer does.

Fonda Lee's debut not only delivers some amazing fight sequences--conducted, as the title indicates, in zero gravity--but constructs an excitingly original science fiction world set on Earth, Mars, and a lunar colony. The story, which concerns the rise of young Terran zeroboxer Carr Luka to the pinnacle of his sport--and the secrets and lies that threaten to tear him down--is told with the directness and visceral energy of a boxing match, while the subplot concerning Terran/Martian tension and prejudice provides a reflective backdrop to the whole. Carr himself, and the cast of characters surrounding him, are all sympathetically rendered--especially Risha Ponn, an expatriate Martian who works as Carr's marketing strategist and who becomes his romantic interest. Lee's writing is clean, her plotting seamless, and her visualization of what sports and sports marketing might look like in the era of space colonization utterly convincing. Here's a sample, from a scene where Carr encounters some diehard fans:

"They all grinned. How childlike they seemed. They were teenagers--one or two of them looked eighteen or nineteen, around Carr's own age--but to him, they all looked like [his fan] Enzo, silly with enthusiasm. This was fun for them, traveling all the way here, sharing in the fandom, getting close to the drama of the [fighting] Cube and the fighters they'd seen in holovid. Zeroboxing defined Carr's life, in every way, good and bad, ecstatic and heartbreaking. He'd given his entire childhood to the sport. It had made him and aged him. But to them, it was all entertainment."

That's pretty good stuff!

Like many reviewers, I usually point out something I didn't like about the books I review. But in the case of Zeroboxer, I'm honestly drawing a blank. Lee's terrific debut should be on the reading list of anyone who enjoys genuinely kick-butt YA sci-fi action stories.