Friday Review: Victories Greater Than Death (Unstoppable #1) by Charlie Jane Anders

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Tina is a teenage girl. living a teenage girl’s life. She goes to school, she has a best friend, and lives with her mother. Except all of that is a cover. She is actually the clone of a heroic alien soldier. She carries inside her a beacon that will alert her people when she is ready to take her destiny back and become the hero again. The problem is, when the beacon goes off, it will also alert the enemies who killed the person Tina was cloned from. And now, Tina- and a few other Earth teens- are traveling through space, trying to defeat the enemies once and for all.

So, it looked like a good story. It’s YA, yes, but there have been a good number of YA stories I have enjoyed. Unfortunately, as much as there is to like about this one, in the end, it wasn’t as good as I had hoped. There were just too many things that either felt off, undeveloped, or unnecessary to keep this interesting. I understand that one of the points of the book was to highlight diversity in many aspects. But the constant delineation of each characters pronouns, aliens included, felt a bit strained to me. It just seemed weird to think that every alien culture, even those with decidedly different gender makeups (one alien race has three genders, for example), would understand and use the very human understanding of pronouns. I’m not saying it was a bad thing, but it felt not quite right to me. The characters never really jumped off the page for me, either, except for one or two of the aliens on the ship Tina serves on. As for Tina herself, she is the clone of a hero soldier, with a past that clearly affects some of Tina’s actions, but we never really find out what that past was beyond the fact that she had some sort of relationship with the main bad guy. There was a procedure to restore the stored memories of the hero hidden in Tina’s subconscious, but conveniently, it left her with full memory of the ship, the mission, the past battles, and the fighting skills, and none of the rest of her life. There were instances of infodump that just got a bit tedious. The whole conflict- what, why, when, and other details- is a bit vague and I never got the sense I knew what we were fighting for. The whole thing read a bit slowly in parts.

Not to say there weren’t good parts. The worldbuilding is pretty good, the tech is alien but familiar, as are the worlds and places visited. The dialogue felt very much like what teenagers would sound like- a bit exaggerated, a bit angsty, unsure yet confident. Some of it was a bit overdone, but not too much. The main plot was interesting and there was plenty of action to carry things along.

If you are looking for a decent scifi story, with strong emphasis on diversity and teen identity and coming of age in a universe that is far more fascinating and dangerous than it seems, this one might be a good fit.

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My latest published book:

“Crossed Wires and Other Very Short Stories”. Twelve scifi and twelve fantasy short stories that can each be read in minutes. Available now Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, and most other e-book retailers. More information here

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