Rating: Loved (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)
It's rare when it happens, but it's the greatest thing when I fall in love with a book from the very first words -- when I know from the very start that this will be one of the best ever books that I've read. That's how I wanted to start this post, but it bugged me that that wasn't quite true. While I loved the story from the very first words of it, there was a puzzling forward that I scratched my head over before falling head over heels in love with the story itself.
The plot was about the world ending. But, unlike other end of the world stories, the author took the reader through everything that was happening, slow and scary step by step. An asteroid was coming, one miles across. One that made the one that killed off the dinosaurs look like a grain of sand. This first book was about how the news stories got out and how people reacted. The world would be destroyed -- literally destroyed, broken up, bits of it sent into space. Every human would be killed, there would be no planet left.
So why did the forward-- (Oh HELL I was googling so I could get one detail right and read a big spoiler. GRRRRR Idiot me! I was trying to be careful! Dammit. ;;) Anyway. The forward talked about a battle from our real history. Two armies, one of them lost 6,000 men, the other lost 70,000 (not sure if those figures are right, something like that, not going to google again. Endless tears!). The author ended that section with a line like "this is the definition of annihilation". That left me scratching my head. Why, in a book about a natural disaster, did the author start with a forward about a real war in history? What did the two have to do with each other? Then I remembered: Somewhere I had read about asteroids being used in space wars, you could destroy a planet with one, just like what was happening in this book. But why? While the book is set in the near future, there was no alien contact that we knew of. Why would Joe Random Alien want to destroy the Earth?
The book's plot never hinted at anything along the lines of war, so I still
K. A. Applegate is such a great writer. It shouldn't surprise me, since her and her husband have been writing for decades. They wrote the Animorphs series together, and probably hundreds of other YA books. I love love love this world she created for Remnants -- the tech is just a bit advanced from the current world, which makes me want it even more since it feels so close. The characters (mostly teens) are interesting, not annoying like many teens in YA books are.
I picked this book to read by chance. I did my "it's time to pick a book from the very bottom of my To Read Pile," and amusingly the choice was between her book and one of her husband's. I knew nothing about either of them, other than his was funny and hers was creepy. While I was in the mood for neither of those, I was less not in the mood for creepy, so I picked Remnants. I'm so glad I did!
I can't believe how genuinely creepy this book is. After being creeped out by one of her husband's books, I emailed him to ask if he had had any trouble selling something so honestly scary, something that scared adult me, as a YA book. He told me that he can get away with that in YA books because kids aren't experienced with the world enough to recognize fear and danger in the same way adults do. For example, in Remnants, the kids would be (rightfully!) scared about the world ending, but for me, it was how the people were behaving in the last days and hours that scared me. The world being destroyed was inevitable, but the scary way people were acting (mobs, being willing to kill, killing themselves, killing their families to "save" them) was what was chilling to me.
Book one ended with 80 humans on a space shuttle, one filled with untested tech. Solar wings that had never been used before. Hibernation pods that had been only used on animals and even then with only limited success. While the book didn't exactly end on a cliffhanger (all the characters asleep in the pods), if the second book hadn't been out already, I sure would have been frustrated waiting for it!
This is a 14 book series, and happily they're all out now. I started the second book immediately upon finishing the first. It has a great mystery right from the start, though that spoiler I read ruined it for me. I can only hope the spoiler information comes out in the second book and wasn't a series-long mystery. So sad!
Edit: Bah. While I said I was pretty much done accepting books for reviews anymore, this morning I got offered a whole bunch that sounded interesting! I narrowed it down to two I'd really like to read, but I'm reading nothing else until I finish the Remnants series, so I have to pass on them. Drat!