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I received a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
by Michael Evans
Palmetto Publishing, 2017
⋆ ⋆ ⋆
The verdict: While bumpy and a bit rambling in parts, a solid first effort from a young author.
As the first novel from a young and developing writer, Control Freakz showcases Michael Evans’s creative aptitude. I respect Evans enough to offer the same critiques I would for more experienced authors. The novel digs its roots into popular culture and certainly knows its YA audience, although trimming the fat on long passages of internal dialogue would help to speed along the narrative. References to robotics and the global economy are realistic enough to suggest a plausible near future, even if the too-extreme dystopian world leaves little room for a moral gray area. To his credit, Evans answers the questions he raises and still ends on a cliffhanger. Genre fans who like to imagine the world beyond the text will find good starting points here.
Natalie Parker, a moody and overly dramatic 15-year-old with a dad who worked in Area 51 before going MIA, faces a new reality when the government enacts Protocol 00. In the years following a global stock crash, the president creates a totalitarian state and demands a national genocide of anyone who resists. Most strange of all is the mysterious blue pill that Natalie’s mom makes her swallow, allegedly for her protection. Soon on the run with boyfriend Hunter and techie neighbor Ethan, Natalie must escape the government hitmen chasing her across the Southwest, racing toward a refugee camp atop Camelback Mountain. Three years later, a disillusioned and increasingly vengeful Natalie searches for answers and her missing family, and the ever-present government threat pulls her back into the dystopian world.
Protocol 00…The final sentence read, “And it is imperative that every last person who took the blue pill be extracted from the population immediately.”
In the non-stop adrenaline rush, sometimes the narration feels like a cameraman with shaky hands, and it’s hard to know which way is up between the shouts. Especially early on, Natalie’s first-person voice screams that she’s about to die in just about every situation. A whirlwind information dump in the first chapter hits a little too fast, which may partially exist due to how easily characters can find information on the internet. For this reason, many of the big reveals later on feel more given than earned. Of course, all modern fiction has to grapple with that problem—how do stories build suspense when the answers are one computer search away? Later chapters slow down and focus on the characters. Natalie grows in confidence and assertion, offering some hope in the face of darkness. The not-so-veiled political references surprised me a bit—at one point Natalie thinks that “maybe if people in this country weren’t so ignorant,” then the world would not have collapsed. Parts of the narration have a hardcore punk sort of tone that I found a bit jarring and forced. Evans opens the door for a deeper sci-fi exploration as he unveils the implications of the blue pill (a reverse-Matrix color scheme, whether intentional or not), and Control Freakz makes a promising starting point for future writing. Recommended for young adult readers who can’t quite get enough of the anti-government dystopian genre and won’t mind the long descriptions.
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