My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Ashton Collins is a somewhat sheltered teen living with his father, a corporate engineer, in the future megacity of Los Angeles. Home alone with just the household robot servants, Ashton receives a cryptic message from his father urging him to get out of the house, go to the dangerous Red Zone, and find the Street Freaks. None of this makes any sense to Ashton, who has always been told to avoid the dangerous Red Zone. He’s never heard of the Street Freaks before and has no idea what his father means. But when their home is breached by armed men obviously searching for Ashton, the teen escapes and finds his way to the Street Freaks. As he works to unravel his father’s disappearance, the reason why he is being hunted by the authorities, and find his way in the world of the Street Freaks, Ashton learns about family, both blood and found, friendship, and what it really means to be human.
Okay, this is a YA novel, no doubt about that. It is not necessarily labeled as such, but honestly, with a teenage protagonist and the main part of the cast teenagers, that was pretty much expected. So, yes, there are a lot of teenage colors here. Ash has very little experience in the world-at-large, and he has a teenager’s melting pot of emotions and reactions. The major points of this book are relationships, as with most of Brooks’ writing. And, also as usual, he gets it right. Ash is pushed into a world completely foreign to him, and confronted with a group of enhanced teens who are already a tight-knit group fighting their own battles. Things aren’t always fun, and the going isn’t always smooth. Ash needs to learn who to trust and who to beware of. But it goes both ways. Just because Ash was sent to the Freaks doesn’t mean they are going to welcome him with open arms. There is a sinister aspect to the group and as the outsider, Ash is suspect despite his obvious confusion over why he’s even there. There are those he likes and who like him, and those he is less sure of and who are not happy that he is there at all. Connections ebb and flow as they do in real life, and trust and true friendship take time. And all of that is set against a backdrop of futuristic corporate greed, supercharged sports cars, and street racing.
I enjoyed the book. The teen characters were true to the adolescents they are, but are also fully developed as characters. The worldbuilding is well done, but one should expect that from Brooks. He envisions the megacity that LA becomes well, with just enough futuristic detail to land this fully in the science fiction genre. There’s plenty of action, with narrow escapes, ruthless armed hunters, and fast and furious cars. I enjoyed it, even if it is solidly a YA story.
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Coming May 17, 2022
“Crossed Wires and Other Very Short Stories”. Twelve scifi and twelve fantasy short stories that can each be read in minutes
I have written science fiction, fantasy, and urban fantasy stories. There are novels, novellas, and shorter pieces to fit everyone’s reading time. There are even some free stories, both here on the site and in other places. You can go here to find out more about the books I have published. They are available at Amazon, Smashwords, and most ebook retailers. Thank You!