Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Storm by D.J. MacHale

Kent Berringer, Tori Sleeper, Olivia Kinsey and Tucker Pierce have survived their daring escape from quarantined Pemberwick Island, to Portland, Maine. Pemberwick is under control of SYLO, the secret, mysterious part of the United States Navy. And Portland has just been destroyed by the strange black planes from the United States Air Force.

The group of four witnessed an epic sea-air battle between the air force and the Navy. Now in Portland, they discover the city is a wasteland; most of the buildings have vanished along with the people And they are being hunted by the strange black planes whose engines emit a musical sound. When the beams from the planes were brought to bear on buildings they disappeared but sometimes only the people vanished. Anyone below ground level was saved.

The group manages to destroy the black plane hunting them and using a stolen car make their way to Maine Medical so Tori can get treated for her gunshot wound. There they meet Jon Purcell who works in transportation and a doctor, Luna Kayamori. The hospital has a radio which has been receiving a broadcast every two hours. Through the static they can only make out some of the words, which seem to be a call for help. Tucker asks Dr. Kayamori if she can translate the Latin phrase, "Sequentia yconomus libertate te ex inferis obendienter"  which was found written on the Air Force plane and which forms the acronym SYLO. Kayamori is familiar with only a few of the words and cannot translate yconomus.

Eventually, Tori who stayed up all night listening to the message, is able to decipher it and determines that it is a call to resistance and that provides co-ordinates of a location in Nevada where survivors of the attacks can gather. The group of teens along with Jon decide to head to Boston first to see if other major cities have been attacked. On the drive to Boston they come to realize that there are likely few survivors in the city; the highways are littered with abandoned cars and the wrecks of airplanes. There are no people and no animals either.

In Boston, they find a large group of survivors who seem well organized and who are led by a man named Chris Campbell. Chris takes them to Faneuil Hall, a historic building in the city where the survivors are housed and fed. There they are questioned and detailed information about them is recorded, they are well fed and set to work. However Tucker begins to suspect that things are not as they appear. One morning he sees men and women being loaded onto a bus. After telling Tori about what he saw they decide to investigate and make an astounding discovery - that the Faneuil Hall camp is supplying slave labour for some kind of strange construction being undertaken and Fenway Park. When they see the men and women lifting huge steel girders they realize that they are under the influence of the Ruby.

It is at the Fenway that Tucker and Tori once again encounter Feit, whom they thought was killed in their escape from Pemberwick Island. Feit indicates that he is working for the Air Force. Feit reveals that the Air Force are fighting to save a doomed planet and trying to create a better world. He was on Pemberwick Island testing the Ruby to see how much the body could withstand before burning out.  Feit indicates that they have wiped out almost three-quarters of the world's population and are now planning to eliminate others. Only a small remnant of humanity will be left and they will be kept as slaves, like the people at Faneuil Hall, to maintain the infrastructure. Feit tells them they are working against SYLO which has a different plan for the world, one which would change the world too.However SYLO's version of the world is not revealed.

Feit also tells Tucker and Tori that there were many infiltrators on Pemberwick Island - people Tucker recognized as strangers who were there to help them take out Captain Granger and SYLO.

In a stunning surprise, SYLO bombs Fenway destroying the silver domed structure that the Retro's were building, allowing Tucker and Tori to escape. They race back to Faneuil Hall to warn the other survivors and to rescue Olivia, Kent and Jon but discover that Chris Campbell is indeed part of the Retros. Their group barely manages to escape and head out to Nevada.

On their way to Nevada they stop in Springfield, MA and are told by an elderly man left in a hospital that his son had wanted him to travel to Kentucky where he assured his father they would be safe. This leads the group to decide to travel to Nevada via Kentucky. It is during their stay in Kentucky, near Fort Knox that they discover a secret SYLO base with an unusual ability to protect itself. Tucker re-encounters Captain Norman Granger, who surprises Tucker by telling him his intention was never to kill Tucker. Granger also tells Tucker that the Retros as he calls the Air Force, accused SYLO of trying to bring about the "end of days". He warns Tucker that one or more of his group might very well be Retro infiltrators. He also tells Tucker that SYLO destroyed the Retro's "gate to hell" in Boston but that another one exists in the Mojave Desert and that they will get that one too. When Tucker asks Granger what he means by this, he is not given any further information, deepening the mystery as to who the Retros are.

Tucker and his companions find the survivor group in Las Vegas, Nevada which has managed to remain undetected. But shortly after their arrival, the city is attacked by the Retros leading Tucker to discover a traitor in their group. They also learn of the Retro's secret plan to destroy Los Angeles and many other survivors too. But it turns out the group of survivors in Las Vegas has a plan, which Tucker is quite willing to be a part of. Can they strike back at the Retros to give SYLO a chance to turn the tide in this war?

Once again MacHale has crafted a thrilling novel that keeps readers in suspense trying to guess the nature of the attacks on the cities and motives behind them. At a whopping 481 pages, readers won't be daunted, because MacHale manages to keep his readers engaged by not revealing who the attackers are nor the extent of the attacks and only gradually revealing bits and pieces of the mystery while adding to it throughout the novel. He implies that the Retros are targeting cities in other countries when Tucker and the survivors at Faneuil Hall witness a large number of the black drone Retro planes heading out over the Atlantic Ocean. The novel ends on a cliffhanger with plenty of unanswered questions; Who are the Retros and why are they wiping out all of humanity? What are the structures they are building? Who are the traitors in Tucker's group?

The novel is action driven and at times reads like it was written for a movie. Characterization is minimal; Tucker seems more like an eighteen year old rather than the precocious fourteen year old he is supposed to be. Despite this, readers will enjoy Tucker, whose bravado and quick thinking make him a likeable character and an interesting narrator. Tori Sleeper and Olivia Kinsey are complete opposite female characters; Tori is courageous, strong and determined while Olivia appears to be interested only in comfort and keeping safe.

MacHale attempt to add bits of romance and therefore, dramatic tension into the relationships between the four teens, seems out of place in the novel. Considering the devastation these kids have faced, romance would be the last thing on their minds.

Overall, Storm is a strong second novel to this trilogy and will definitely be an appealing read to young readers 10 and up. The novel takes its title from the large number of black Retro planes which attack like a storm, destroying everything in their path.  MacHale's third novel, Strike will be published later this year in November, 2014.

Book Details:
Storm by D.J. MacHale
New York: Razorbill a division of Penguin Young Readers Group   2014
481 pp.

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