Recently, I’ve been having trouble getting through most of the books I’ve been reading.
I don’t know if that’s because of the books, or if it’s because of me, but in thinking back over everything I’ve read over the last year or so, I feel like I struggled with a lot more of my reading material than I usually do.
Of course, I’ve been working, and writing my novels, and generally busy with life, but I could only think of two books over the last year that I just plain sailed through.
The first was Notes from the Blender, by Brendan Halpin and Trish Cook.
The second Plague, the fourth book in the Gone series, by Michael Grant.
Now, there are going to be six books total, and here are the titles, because you will want to read them: Gone, Hunger, Lies, Plague, Fear, and Light.
So, of course, the first question that should spring to mind is this: What are they about?
I’ll come back to that. I swear.
Because first, I want to talk about how I discovered the books, just so you can understand what they were up against when I started reading them.
When the first book came out, Ain’t It Cool News, which rarely covers books, had kind of a neat idea. Since the book deals with a bunch of people vanishing, they planned to put up the first 10 or 15 chapters, one day after the next.
Each chapter would vanish at midnight.
Then, unfortunately, the underbelly of Ain’t It Cool reared its ugly head. Chapter 1 went up, and the formatting was really, really funky, and the comments were rife with bile, as they usually are. (You suck, your whole family sucks, this book sucks, and anyone who says otherwise is a corporate shill. The usual.)
But I read it, and the chapter didn’t fool around. The first big idea dropped within a few paragraphs. That premise is, everyone in town over the age of 15 vanishes at the exact same moment.
Then came the next few chapters, posted daily, still totally wonked in the formatting department, with the comments growing more and more heated for reasons I didn’t really understand.
Because the story kept developing, and it was still pretty cool. The town was trapped under a giant bubble that the kids can’t see out of. Anyone who turns 15 vanishes. Some of the kids develop powers.
And on, and on, and on.
The series was eventually pulled before all the chapters were posted, but I grabbed a copy of Gone and I quite literally flew through it. The books are all North of 400 pages, and they are still over way too quickly.
Of course, it’s easy to be a critic when something bothers you. But it’s harder to talk about something you enjoy.
I think I know why, in this case. Even in those few short paragraphs above what I’m writing now, I’ve already given away some of the more entertaining surprises. And while I could tell you more about the plot, I’d hate to ruin it for you.
Here’s what I can tell you – and hopefully it’ll get you hyped up enough to pick up the first book.
1. The series is Stephen King endorsed.
This is as it should be. Somewhere deep into the second book, I realized that it reminded me of the Stephen King of old. The Stand, for example, was a massive book that kept the pedal to the floor, always relentlessly hurtling forward, always adding new ideas and dropping new bombs on the characters (sometimes literally).
The Gone series contains the same raw power, always moving forward, always willing to jam it’s characters into horrible situations and let them die, if need be.
Unlike other YA series that gets their characters into horrible situations, and then finds a way to let them off at the last second.
2. The series doesn’t stop for plodding character monologues.
It’s easy to fill space with teenage angst. As an author, I know this. As a reader, it drives me up a wall. I’m good with characters having emotions, but I am not good with the story grinding to a halt for five pages while people talk about their feelings. As a component of scene? Good. As the scene itself?
We get none of that.
3. The series is constantly upping the stakes to near-impossible levels, and then raising them again.
Some of this is right there in the titles. What happens when the food runs out? What happens when people start getting sick and there are no doctors, and little in the way of medicine?
What happens when kids try to form a government?
What happens when you run out of water?
When happens when the electricity goes out?
I am astonished just how vicious Michael Grant can be.
Is there more? Yeah, there’s more. The next book is out in April, and the final volume a year later, and that’s a shame. I fully intend to grab the book at the first opportunity and consume it in great, crushing bites.
But after that, I have to wait a whole year for the final volume.
I’ll be sad to see it end. And if that doesn’t tell you how much I enjoy the series, nothing will.