BOOK REVIEW: Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, Deborah Biancotti
Allen & Unwin
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell
Within these pages you will meet six unique teens.
Nate/Bellwether (aka Glorious Leader) has the ability to bend the will of crowds, to make them follow him.
Chizara/Crash can crash anything electronic, hence the name. But the downside to her power is that even being near electronics hurts her to her very bones, makes her brain itch.
Riley/Flicker is blind, but can see through the eyes of others.
Thibault/Anonymous finds it incredibly easy to disappear, but the flip side of this is that no one can remember him unless they’re looking at him. If any more than five people are present, he becomes downright invisible. Ironically, one of the most memorable characters.
Ethan/Scam can open his mouth and let another voice take over. Another voice which knows truths about the people it’s speaking too, truths he would have no way of knowing. But it gets him into trouble.
Kelsie/Mob can affect the mood of a crowd, making them feel better, happier, more alive. But it can also have a negative affect, redoubling anxious or fearful emotions.
It sounds like a really interesting combination of people, a really interesting story. It sounds like it could be mindblowing and fascinating. It sounds like it could be a book of the year.
But it just falls flat.
That’s not to say it’s bad, it’s perfectly okay, but there’s nothing particularly amazing or unique about the story.
I was so eager to get my hands on this book because of Margo Lanagan. Everything she writes is earth-shattering. It’s bizarre, unique, and it will leave you with one hell of a book hangover. But somehow that uniqueness is missing from this book, and what we are offered up, instead, is a run of the mill YA story crossed with a run of the mill superhero story.
It could be a case of too many chefs in the kitchen, and maybe each unique voice was squashed in the process of trying to hide which character was written by whom. It could be a case of expectations set too high, which is why I feel the need to point out that there’s not really anything functionally wrong here; it’s a good read, but it plays a little too much on the safe and tame side. It has more serious and grown up themes, the characters are mostly independent and practically adults, but the reason Ethan’s friends abandoned him a year ago seems lame in comparison. Are they practically grown-ups, or twelve?
I’m looking forward to the next title in the series; not because this one left me hanging, but because I’ve not given up on this grouping of authors just yet. I have faith that they can shock and amaze in the second book, and hope that they will pull no punches next time around, now that they have established their world.
Definitely give it a read if you’re a fan of these authors or the superhero genre, but don’t expect your mind to be blown in this first installment.
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