Associate Links: Amazon (or buy from the author's website)
- Why I picked it up: Review request by publisher, interesting premise
- Disclosure: Received book from publisher, but no other reimbursement from author or publisher
Kaleem Malkendy is different – and, on Terrestra, different is no way to be.This book fascinated me. The writing style was more middle grade than YA, though it certainly had its moments of PG-13 content (especially in Kaleem's mother's flashbacks); it went on a little bit too long, the dialogue and character development were mostly poor, and it could have done with some grammatical tightening. BUT. The premise managed to carry me through, feeling fresh and interesting despite what felt like some borrowing from sci-fi kid prodigy classics like Ender's Game. Terrestra proved to be an intriguing setting, and I could relate to the intercultural themes. The story raised more questions than it answered, in a mostly positive manner; setting up what I'm sure will be an interesting YA science fiction trilogy.
Everything about Kaleem marks him out from the rest: the blond hair and dark skin, the humble cave where he lives and the fact that he doesn’t know his father. He’s used to unwelcome attention, but even so, he’d feel better if some strange old man didn’t keep following him around.
Then the man introduces himself and begins to explain the Babel Prophecy – and everything in Kaleem’s life changes forever.
My main issue with it was its length. I think this would make a better series if Gill James toned down the more mature themes, and made it a MG series spanning ten or more books. Even now that I'm 15 I would read them - the story would have felt shorter, obviously; sweeter, more original, and more real. The dialogue would have felt less fake and the characters less shallow if the characters involved had been younger.
As it was, though, this novel still managed to be peppered with moments of poignant bittersweetness - the odd romance between Kaleem's parents somehow worked, and so did, later in the book, Kaleem's own romantic adventures. I wish more of this had been shown instead of told - Kaleem's internal voice bugged me. Even so, at least some of the emotions worked.
The novel's real strength, however, was Gill James's interesting take on the future. I can't place my finger on what felt new, but I enjoyed it, and I wish we could have spent more time exploring instead of developing emotionally. The book got better as it went on, and I'd certainly pick up book two in the series.
All in all, it probably won't be enjoyed by those not fans of the genre, but science fiction fans, especially boys, should lap it up. It's unusual enough to warrant picking up, certainly!
The Final Verdict: It won't make converts out of those who don't like science fiction, but it's an interesting futuristic tale that warrants a good look! Three and a half out of five stars.