Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

I’m kind of on a science fiction fantasy YA kick now and The Scorpion Rules has to be one of the most unique speculative YA books I’ve read in a long time.

In a world where global warming is here and territory wars have run rampant, the UN turns to an artificial intelligence named Talis to create solution for peace. Going rouge, Talis starts incinerating cities of warring countries via satellite and makes new rules for humanity; each country's leader must give one of their children to him and if that country wants to go war that child will be killed as a sacrifice.

400 years later, 17-year-old Greta Gustafsen Stuart, Crown Princess of the Pan Polar Confederacy (so, like Canada) is one of those children. She has spent a majority of her life in the isolated school with the rest of the hostages. Greta and her cohorts accept their fate as hostages with dignity and spend their days in intense study hoping they won’t be called on to die. That is until Elián Palnik, a hostage from the newly formed country shows up. He doesn’t play by the rules and makes Greta question everything she’d ever accepted.

So, it’s basically  Dead Poets Society with a cyberpunk twist.

The A.I ,  Talis shows up as a character which I didn't expect. He's called the most strategic mind of an epoch but instead of being like a dark serious overlord--he’s a snarky, irreverent Bunny Ears Lawyer who makes obscure movie references. It is all pretty bizarre, but in a fun way I have never seen in YA.

I did this on audio and the narrator is Madeline Maby, who I liked as the voice of Kat in the Burn For Burn books. She has a little bit of bass in her voice so she does well with  voicing all genders. I think the biggest stumbling block for her in this book is the accents of Greta’s classmates.  Elián has a southern accent that just doesn't work. Her Tallis voice on the other hand works really, really well for this story.

As far as the diversity front, there are quite a few characters of color. Greta is implied to be bisexual but it's never stated. Her main  love interest is her roommate Princess Li Da-Xia, but she also likes Elian. I think Bow handles the romance well, but because of how stilted Mabey does Xia's voice it was  kind of hard to connect with her as a character

My only criticism of the writing is sometimes is sometimes it felt little long in the tooth and like there were scenes that were stretching on too long. Also some of her metaphors don't land.

This high concept novel took me by surprise and I can't wait to see what happens to Greta in the next book.

I see they are giving this series new more Games of Thrones-y covers. I like that they are trying something new, but it it so generic looking. The original cover captured me when I first saw this book at BEA last year.

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