Book Review: Undercurrent

After the great floods, the world’s coastal cities survived by building huge domes that kept them safe from the rising waters, but they couldn’t protect them from political upheaval. The Wave Party’s leader Saxon Cole is trying to wrest control of the government. A deadly explosion in the underwater city of Aquataine causes a mass evacuation to the surface, and the secretive group known as the Undercurrent suspects sabotage.

When one of the Undercurrent’s senior officers is viciously attacked for what he knows, his nephew, sixteen-year-old Phelan Maxwell, is compelled to act. But even the resourceful Phelan couldn’t have expected the adventure he was about to embark on. Ariana Torrent, the confident and smart girl he meets during the evacuation, offers her support. It’s a good thing too, because Phelan underestimates just how dangerous Cole’s men can be.

-Undercurrent, by Michael Crowl (Goodreads)

Undercurrent creates a future for the world we live in if things do not change. With so many pieces of the future unknown, it is refreshing to find a novel that shows us a future where we aren’t all turned into cyborgs and daleks. There is plenty of updated technology, but the uses aren’t to enhance people like with many futuristic sci-fi novels.

Phelan Maxwell and his friends navigate the waters of peril so elegantly in this story, that it is hard to remember they are high school students. Though they learn a lot of real world workings, and overcome many impossible obstacles, Phelan and his friends manage to save most of the underwater domed world that once was Baltimore. The question is, have they truly saved the dome? Or have they only delayed the inevitable?

Saxon Cole is not a man to be messed with lightly. If you are going to take him on, you better have a good team with a good plan. Cole knows how to conduct his business from behind the curtain when he needs to, which makes covering his tracks much simpler for him. But we know that what is simple for the villain, is not such an easy challenge for our hero. Codes and puzzles are strewn throughout this novel, keeping you on your toes as you turn every page. You never know what riddles you will encounter as you follow the team.

As Cole plans his attacks and scandals to take down the current system and overthrow the government, there are many things to take into consideration. Not only is he focused on his government campaign, which is full of lies to get the position he wants, but he attacks the city itself through his wide variety of lackies. Drug circles, fist thumping goons, and his own SWAT team of vandals, destroy the city in pieces giving him things to tidy up and look good.

Like every good novel, the main character could just ignore the issues and continue with his own life and pretend it doesn’t effect him, but the sense of duty kicks in making that choice a pointless one. Phelan meets his power trio team finds each of their individual strengths to formulate a plan to save the dome they grew up in. While motivated by the mystery shrouding his family’s past tragedy, the desire to do the right thing shines through the excellently developed characters.

This being said, am I the only one that is constantly drawn to the “sidekick”? Yes Harry Potter’s name is in the title, but I have always held Ron Weasley in high regards for his attitude and humor in even the worst situations. We follow Tris Pryor, but I prefer the bumbling Peter, partially because we don’t know what he’s going to say or do on any given page. Tyrian Lannister isn’t the main character in most stories, but he will forever be my favorite. His satirical visage just makes me smile. Destyn Albright, will forever join these ranks in my opinion, and is perhaps in the first runner up spot. Ok, he’s definitely my silver medal character. He’s hilarious and refreshing.

The book is a great read, and could easily be shleved along side series like The Hunger Games, Divergent, Maze Runner, and The Blackthorne Key. The second book (The Rise of the Wave) is also already available, and I know for a fact a third installment into this series is in progress already.

For fun, today is Founder’s Day in Aquataine!

Join Cole’s hunt by making your own “I Am Phelan Maxwell” post!

Undercurrent by Michael Crowl / 342 pages / YA / Science Fiction / Dystopian / Coming of Age

Book Review: Ready Player One

IN THE YEAR 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within the world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.

But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win – and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

-Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline (Goodreads)

Ready Player One captures the challenges that emerge from new and ubiquitous technology and is an exciting work of science fiction — it gives us a peek into the future of current technologies but also is heavily influenced by our past pop culture. While the novel’s context is a dystopian world — for me, it is a challenge to us to hopefully create a better structure for deploying future technologies — one that truly uplifts the human condition instead of just allowing us to escape our real challenging realities.

Though Wade Watts and his motley crew wins against the evil corporation IOI in the end, thereby, taking control of the Oasis and the company behind it— serious questions remain — can their young team truly manage this global online meta-verse and hopefully help humanity rebuild the physical world? Or will they become victims of their own success, amassing wealth at the expense of continuing a legacy of helping humans escape reality using VR technology?

Halliday’s Easter egg isn’t the only symbol of ultimate power in the novel either. Halliday also built an exit button into the code of the OASIS that would wipe the game completely at his will. The handing over of so much power to his successor is a potentially life altering action for everyone in the year 2044. The game is a commonly used escape from the crumbling world they all live in that allows anyone to do and be anything. Better education, entertainment with zero gravity, and quests for those who wish to be heroes balance on the button being ignored. The exit button is glimpsed, but it’s never said whether Wade has decided to use it or not.

But the fact that the button was built, means that Halliday himself was unsure of the value of the game. Does this reflect the uncertainty of technology? Or just how addictive the game could become? It did make him a virtual god (see what I did there?) in the game and in real life. Perhaps Halliday was provoked by the absolute power, and the desire not to abuse it, to create such a button.

We will have to read Ready Player Two to be sure what happens with Wade in charge. But in the meantime, this is a great read. Personally it is one of my favorites. The movie is also one of the best adaptations I’ve ever seen from page to screen. I first read the book in 2014, so the dystopian theme was at it’s height. Hunger Games, Divergent, Maze Runner. So when RPO was announced, and finally released as a movie in 2018, I was stoked. I loved this book. I’m pretty sure I only sat down to open the book three times before I finished it. I re-read it for this blog, and in preparation for Ready Player Two, and I still love this book. If you haven’t experienced the world created by Ernest Cline, you need to find it now. Or, whenever you have time.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline / 384 pages / YA / Science Fiction / Dystopian 

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