Thursday, 28 January 2010

Review: Monster Republic by Ben Horton

An explosion in a nuclear power plant. Kids patched up with scavenged body parts and bionic implants. A growing army of superhuman soldiers programmed for destruction. Cameron Riley is about to discover that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger...

Firstly.... great title!
Secondly...  great cover art!
Thirdly (and most importantly)... great story!

As a result of the Harry Potter phenomenon, over the last ten years the kids and YA market has been swamped with fantasy books (both good and bad). Similarly, the success of Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider books led to a glut of teen boy action heroes. On the basis of some of the books I have read lately I think that a) 2010 is going to be a great year for YA/kids horror and b) we really need more science fiction books released for these age groups. Joe Craig and Keith Mansfield have both written great science fiction stories over the past few years, and now Ben Horton wants a piece of the action. And if Monster Republic, the first in a new series, is anything to go by then I think Mr Horton will be here to stay.

The publishers of Monster Republic have billed it as The Terminator meets X-Men and they are not far off with that comparison. Mix in a massive dollop of The Six Million Dollar Man (if you are of an age where you have no idea what I am talking about - ask your parents) and you have this: a fast paced sci-fi actioner with great characters and a storyline that is begging to be reproduced on the big screen. And the action is there almost from the start; there is no hanging around whilst scenes are set in this book. We have a slightly creepy Prologue, Chapter 1 to introduce us to Cameron, the main character, and his normal, everyday school friends (and one school fiend), and then BOOM!..... life for Cameron will never be the same again. The remaining 261 pages with their larger than average typeface do not leave much room for faffing around - once the action starts it hardly lets up until the final page.

When reviewing the first book in a series I rarely expect full character development. After all, if a new character is introduced in a soap opera you don't expect to find out everything that makes them tick within that first episode. I would suggest, though, that Ben Horton manages to develop Cameron's character pretty well, aided and abetted by the plot - Cameron is thrown into situation after situation where he has to come to terms with what has happened to him; the reaction of other people to him; the lack of trust shown towards him by other victims of human medical experimentation gone wild; and so on, and so on. The personalities and motivations of many of the secondary characters are still something of a mystery to us as the action mainly focuses on Cameron, but I expect we will see these developed in future books.

This really is movie blockbuster material and it is the sort of book that this blog was born to promote. The last five pages even present us with some glorious black and white graphic novel style images... perfect for boys who struggle with picturing images from the words they read, although I am not sure they will have much trouble conjuring up images of Cameron's manufactured appearance. Mr Horton does not give us lengthy passages of descriptive writing when it comes to Cameron and the other 'creations' of Dr Lazarus Fry.... again, he lets the action do the talking and if it weren't for these graphic novel images I would imagaine that every reader would formulate a different mental image of what Cameron looks like.

Monster Republic is aimed at the 12+ market. It is published by Corgi and is in stores right now. My thanks go out to the kind people at RHCB who sent me this copy to review.

1 comment:

  1. My own two science fiction publications for 2009 were very much designed for young through to mature adults.

    Strange thing is a few 11/12 year olds - children of friends have gotten ahold of them and really quite enjoyed them.

    They are both collections of short stories.

    Here are the links:


    David Scholes