"Let the bodies hit the floor. One down and many more"
The Pack-Retribution by L.M.Preston is a young adult science-fiction novel that centers around a team of cadets who—after loosing their leader to an unknown assassin—race to find the killer before more loved ones die. The story takes place on Mars which was been transformed into a rehabilitation center for former convicts. These criminals have been given a vaccine that combats and eliminates whatever genetic predisposition lead them to crime in the first place. With their desire to perpetrate crime removed, scientists believe that these former convicts can lead renewed lives. Of course, not all that glitters is gold. Along with beat cops, Mars and it’s rehabilitated convicts are watched over by an Elite force who are outfitted with a specially designed nano skin that render them nearly impervious to harm and gives them enhanced strength. There are many really novel ideas in this story and it’s refreshing to see imagination in a genre that I feel has been suffering from an egregious lack of creativity in recent years. Unfortunately, Preston’s panoply of creative ideas and gadgets are lost in a very confusing narrative.
I haven’t struggled this much with a book in quite some time. It was even a struggle to decide a proper rating. In some areas, the book is very good. However, the good—no matter how present—is quickly overshadowed by what I can only call sloppy execution. My chief problem with this book was that it felt a little discombobulated. The clues that lead to the real killer are too convenient and the large cast of characters can be difficult to distinguish, especially in scenes with a lot of dialogue. Now initially I had no idea that this book was actually a sequel to another(The Pack), so some of my initial confusion really can’t be blamed on Preston. Instead, I blame the way it’s marketed. Nothing in the summary claims that this book is in fact a sequel, so naturally would-be readers who are interested by the story’s premise would not think twice about purchasing/borrowing it. Once again, this really isn’t Preston’s fault and, while I was a little confused at first, the narrative is kind enough to inform any late comers to the series of the events of the previous book. Because I have not read this book’s predecessor, I cannot comment regarding its superiority or inferiority in comparison, so keep in mind while reading this review that I’m viewing this story as an independent body rather than a continuation.
A few small issues that hindered my enjoyment of this book had to do with typographical errors and formatting. In fact, The Pack-Retribution is one of three e-books I’ve read to be plagued by two of the same mishaps: unnecessary hyphens and random insertions of the author’s name or story title in the middle of a paragraph. For example, words like smashing and swallowing are turned into swallow-ing and smash-ing. The page breaks, which were frustratingly frequent, read like this:
Too bad 98
That didn’t work out
As I’ve seen both of these errors in two other e-books, I assume that something must be going array with whatever software the authors(or their publishers) are using to transform their books into an e-book format. None the less, these errors are distracting and serve to sever the connection the reader has with the world within the story. There were also a few typos here and there, but nothing too terrible. Aside from format errors, The Pack-Retribution has a rather irritating habit of telling readers what characters feel instead of showing us through interactions. So and so loves so and so, so and so feels mad etc…The story also repeats certain statements over and over again, almost as if assuming that the readers will be too daft to remember them. For instance, I counted four separate moments in which readers are reminded that the main character Shamira has excellent hearing because she used to be blind, and even though she is no longer blind she still has excellent hearing. And readers are constantly informed about Shamira’s struggle at letting people get close—even though she seems to let quite a few people close—and how intense affection frightens her. Yes, Preseton I get it. She can hear well and has a fear of intimacy. Rather than telling readers all of these things(over and over), I’m confidant that Preston’s story would have been aided by showing readers examples of these facts instead of telling us, as well as trusting readers to remember the facts as given.
None the less, I still did enjoy parts of the story. The basic premise of a drug that can help cure criminals of their impulse to commit crime is really fascinating. Additionally, the strange power that Shamira possesses which was born out of a brush with death was very intriguing and begged for more explanation(though, never have read the first book, I have no idea if better explanation was given). The nano skins that protect elite officers is something I haven’t seen in science fiction before. Can you imagine a comic book series based around people with that technology? It sounds like it would be pretty awesome to me. I suppose part of reason why this book confused me so much might have to do with the way the story is told—which is kind of like an action comic. I’ve nothing against comics, believe me—but the writing needed to tell a story in both mediums is different. I mean, would you want to read a comic written like a book? But really I am crossing into the realm of nitpickery here, so I’ll end this review by saying that the writing could have been better but the story and the environment in which the story takes place is really interesting. I imagine that fans of the Maximum Ride series by James Patterson will probably really enjoy this book, as both stories feature strong female leads and the writing style is reminiscent of an action comic.