Sunday, December 18, 2011

Zero Sight and Zero Sum

Summary: Holy cow, these books were great!   The premise sounds like a typical intrepid-hero-attends-a-magic-academy that clutters YA.  But it's YA in the same way that Ender's Game is - which is to say that it magnificently transcends the age of the protagonist.  And the voice is a lot more Harry Dresden than Harry Potter.  I can't recommend them enough.

Zero Sight and Zero Sum, by B. Justin Shier, are the first and second books in the Zero Sight Series respectively.  They're set in a broken-down, near-future America.  Dieter Resnick, the protagonist, is a young man with a single purpose - getting the hell out of his current life and into something better.  His master plan involves keeping his head down, getting an academic scholarship to an Ivy, and living happily ever after somewhere far away from the gangs and poverty and abuse of his current life.

The first part of his plan hits a snag when he gets in a fight with higher stakes than he hoped for, and things take an unexpected turn.  If you've read much in the genre, you have some idea where things are headed in the first book, but you won't care because the journey is fantastic.  The second book tops the first - fleshing out secondary characters and starting them on their own arcs, having more unexpected twists, and really turning up the slow-burn love triangle.  It's a better crafted story in general, although the first one was very good to begin with.

This series came out of nowhere for me.  Zero Sight is Shier's debut novel, and it was dang good.  So good, that I didn't have the patience to write a review before starting the second one.  Part of that rush to read the next book was the ending though - it feels like the book is the first half of a two-part novel rather than the first novel in a series.  The second book's ending is more successful, although I'll still be waiting with bated breath until he releases the third book.

It's a series that doesn't condescend.  He's telling the story of a brilliant, honorable, and driven young man in a richly detailed world and emotionally complex circumstances.  This first person POV gives us the chance to be inside one of my new favorite minds, but you can't sleepwalk through it. Not that you want to - it's a gripping read.

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