Friday, 18 October 2013

Review: The Contaminants by Devin K. Smyth

The Contaminants by Devin K. Smyth

Author: Devin K. Smyth Website
Published: 5 March 2013
Format: Kindle e-book
Pages: 155
Buy the e-book: Kindle

Source: Received free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review. Thanks Devin!

Plot Summary (from Goodreads):
When America attempts to "purify" earth to maintain its own dominance, it sparks a worldwide nuclear holocaust. Teen friends Jessil and Soraj are among the few survivors. They escaped on a cruiser that now orbits the planet and is designed to help regenerate the earth's ecosystem. Soraj’s father leads the regeneration process and is hopeful that he can salvage a region in North America for the cruiser’s return.

But when Jessil discovers a message indicating her own father may have survived the holocaust back on earth, she’s determined to rescue him immediately with Soraj's aid. Can they succeed even though the planet they return to is very different from the one they left—and that their success could mean failure for the regeneration process?

My Review:
I've been on a bit of a sci-fi kick lately so I was excited when the author got in touch and offered me the chance to read this book. The Contaminants follows Jessil and Soraj, two residents of the Powell spaceship waiting for conditions on Earth to be habitable again so they can return.

I found the story pretty easy to get into. The book is written from both Jessil and Soraj's perspective and I warmed to both characters, especially Jessil. I liked how we join the characters during their space voyage and then the book flashes back to show us how they got there. I thought the pacing was spot on and it was great to establish the surroundings first. I really enjoyed discovering more about life before the two characters were evacuated in those flashback chapters and could feel the fear and uncertainty they went through.

The Contaminants provided everything I wanted from a sci-fi novel. It had space, mad scientists (in the form of Soraj's dad, Dr Guyat) a post-apocalyptic Earth, futuirstic technology and so much more. I loved the setting of the Powell, the spaceship the characters are on. The virtual reality eyepieces - a system called SOLE - were a cool touch. The latter half of the book where we get to learn more about the current state of Earth were some of my favourite parts. They added that survival and danger element to the book.

Most importantly I really liked some of the darker ideas and themes featured in The Contaminants. Soraj's father has some pretty terrifying schemes. He starts out as someone you view as a saviour of the people and the solution to their problem, but it quickly becomes apparent that there is more to him than meets the eye. There's this idea that to save the planet, only the most intelligent, purist people should be saved to repopulate the earth, and that whole idea of only choosing certain people was a pretty interesting topic to get your teeth into.

I liked the diverse range of characters in The Contaminants. I instantly fell for Jessil's little adopted brother Kylo and I thought it was great to see an Indian character - Soraj - take a main role in a YA novel. Overall I was impressed with the writing, although there was one niggle I had. All the characters seem to go by nicknames, for example Soraj is known as Raj, Jessil as Sil, Gaben as Ben and Kylo as Lo. These names were used interchangably throughout and because they are not common names, the nicknames didn't feel familiar enough to me and so at points I thought I was dealing with two separate characters. The names are interchanged throughout the story with not much continuity, and I would much preferred if one name had been used to avoid confusion.

The book is only short at 155 pages, but it definitely had enough substance about it to feel like you're getting a solid story. There was plenty of action and a really well developed world. I don't know if there are any more books planned but there's definite potential for there to be more to explore. I'd love to know more about the characters and the world. I think it's a must for sci-fi fans, and I found it an enjoyable read.

Rating: 4*
Books like this: Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan, Hope's Daughter by Melanie Cusick-Jones

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