Monday, August 8, 2016

YA Guy Reviews... THE RECKONING by Chris Howard!

YA Guy's been saying it for years: Chris Howard is one of the most inventive and original writers in YA science fiction.

I hope people have been listening.

Howard first caught my attention with ROOTLESS, the series opener in a post-apocalyptic trilogy about a future Earth without trees and the young man, Banyan, who builds facsimiles thereof. Ingeniously bizarre--bordering at times on the Boschian grotesque--and written in a voice like none other, ROOTLESS convinced me that Howard was something special.

It was a long while before the next book in the trilogy, THE RIFT, appeared. That one upped the ante on its predecessor, giving us such gleefully weird imagery as a man with trees for legs, resuscitated mammoths with purple fur, and upside-down mountains under which strange dreams are dreamt. I waited an even longer time for the denouement, THE RECKONING; in the meantime, Howard put out another book, NIGHT SPEED, narrated by a teen who's hooked on the drug she takes to chase down criminals who've been given superhuman strength and speed by the same drug. Make no mistake, Howard doesn't tell neat or easy stories, and he doesn't cleave to formula. He writes his own thing, and leaves it to his reader to decide.

THE RECKONING, it must be said, wasn't my favorite book of the ROOTLESS trilogy; I'd probably give pride of place to the first book, if only because it so blew me away when I read it. (But then, that's the way it often is with trilogies; THE HUNGER GAMES is the best book of the three, as is THE MAZE RUNNER.) THE RECKONING drags a bit in the first third, as lots of exposition gets packaged as dialogue; conversely, the final third feels rushed, with the action taking place in a city we've waited the whole trilogy to visit but then don't spend enough time exploring. Part of my disappointment, I'm sure, stemmed from the fact that I knew this was the last time I'd have the chance to sink into this particular world, and so I set the bar impossibly high. Notwithstanding, I still loved THE RECKONING, and the trilogy as a whole remains a personal favorite.

So I'll say it once more: Chris Howard is one of the most inventive and original writers in YA science fiction.

I hope people are listening.

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