Saturday, 8 October 2016

BOOK REVIEW: ZENITH BY SASHA ALSBERG & LINDSAY CUMMINGS


There is darkness sweeping across the stars. 

Most know Androma Racella as the Bloody Baroness: a powerful mercenary whose reign of terror stretches across the Mirabel Galaxy. To those aboard her fearsome glass starship the Maurader, she’s just Andi, their captain and protector. 

When a routine mission goes awry, the all-girl crew’s resilience is tested as they find themselves in a most unfamiliar place: at the mercy of a sadistic bounty hunter connected to Andi’s past and a harrowing betrayal. 

Meanwhile, on the far side of the galaxy, a ruthless ruler waits in the shadows of the planet Xen Ptera, biding her time to exact revenge for the destruction of her people. The final pieces of her deadly plan are about to fall into place, unleashing a plot that will tear Mirabel in two. 

Andi and her crew embark on a dangerous, soul-testing journey that could restore order to their ship—or just as easily start a war that will devour worlds. As the Marauder hurtles towards the unknown, and Mirabel hangs in the balance, the only thing certain is that in a galaxy run on lies and illusion, no one can be trusted. 





Oh, what a delightful amalgamation of The Good and The Bad this story is!

For those more optimistic than myself, the notion that Zenith was co-authored by a YA author (Lindsay Cummings) and a YA vlogger (Sasha Alsberg) promised nothing but good things. But because I am a cynical pumpkin of cynicism, I went into it with something more akin to trepidation. On the surface it makes no sense, because individually I love both Lindsay and Sasha, and I have been a follower of both for quite a few years. But the sad truth is that in all my time in the YA community, I've rarely seen these sorts of marriages end on a good note.

It's more of a shriek, most of the time.

And with Zenith, it was more of a Tarzanesque holler: high-notes, low notes and everything in between.

But let it not be said that some of them didn't hit the mark: for one, Zenith is the sort of tiny snippet of a book that newbies to YA as a whole would very likely love. Despite the mere 62 pages, it's action-packed, and it features a host of characters who all have the potential to be entertaining and keep the reader's attention. What little we've seen of the world might prove to be thoroughly entertaining, too. Moreover, my concerns regarding the actual collaborative efforts were unfounded. For the most part, the writing is cohesive. Zenith doesn't read as though it had been written by two people with their own separate styles. And in collaborative projects, this is always a plus.

But for every high point, there's a low. For one, I can't see any logical reason why a full-length novel would be chopped up into 50-60 paged sections and published that way. Outside of fanfiction and chapterized online stories, this is fairly unprecedented in my little bubble of the bookosphere. As it stands, Zenith offers no closure, no sense of well-roundedness, no proper character arcs. The plot begins at the end. It absolutely cannot stand on its own (nor is it supposed to, I hope). And this way of publication seemed like it was a bit of a trap for the authors, too. It resulted in a book crammed with staggering amounts of infodumps in an effort to establish as much of the premise in as few pages as possible.

For your sake, I hope you've never seen infodumps like these before. If you have, I am sorry and I'm willing to hand out virtual cookies.

Which immediately brought about the lowest note: the writing. Something went seriously wrong with the writing from the very first page. The phrasing, which I feared the most, turned out to be surprisingly good. But the actual writing breaks the most fundamental rules - those which aren't there to induce an eyeroll, but to actually save the book. Just about everything in Zenith follows the formula of:
1. Tell, in long, expositional paragraphs
2. Show what's already been told
3. Explain what was shown.
It's a nightmare formula. Simply put, had Zenith been submitted to a serious editor, it might have been condensed to around 15 pages of action.

Which isn't to say those 15 pages wouldn't be interesting. If I'm being perfectly honest, I was engaged throughout. But the reason that not even this action could save the overall book for me is simply this: it has all been done before, and done to death. In fact, Zenith reads disturbingly similar to Throne of Glass, The Starkiller Cycle and Illuminae, within the YA sphere (The Starkiller Cycle not being YA per se, but certainly written by two predominantly YA authors) - truly, disturbingly so. More than anything, it reads like a fanfiction crossover of the three, with other established series occasionally making an appearance.

And in true YA fashion, the series as a whole seems to hint at a love triangle. Though on this, I could be wrong. And I really, really hope I am.

Ultimately, Zenith is thoroughly entertaining, if not derivative. It's interesting on the surface, if not in substance. It will undoubtedly be a commercial success (and already is), if not a critical one. It's decently phrased and poorly written. It has the potential to be amazing, and the potential to be disastrous. Newcomers to the genre unfamiliar with tropes will likely love it. Seasoned veterans tired of the tropes probably won't. Will I read the next installment? Absolutely. But am I eagerly anticipating it? Fike, no.

I guess it says nothing good about humankind overall if in this technologically-advanced futuristic world, the only part of the human condition that has even remotely evolved are the cuss-words.





I must be the only blogger in the universe who truly hates giving bad reviews. But book blogging is utterly useless without honesty. So here we are. I still maintain that anyone new to YA overall might enjoy Zenith. In fact, I wish my introduction to YA had been as good as this. (It was much, much worse.) But from this vantage point, it is what it is.

Talk to us, pumpkins! What was the hardest review you've ever written? Has there ever been one you wished you didn't have to write? And whether you agree or disagree with this take on Zenith - feel free to leave us a comment below. We'd love to hear from people who loved it, too.


No comments:

Post a Comment