Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Alienation (C.H.A.O.S. Trilogy #2), by Jon S. Lewis


The adventures of orphaned surfer teen Colt McAlister continue as he and his two best friends--hacker prodigy Danielle and uber-buff warrior-to-be Oz--prepare for their training at the super secret C.H.A.O.S. academy.  Which would be more than enough to keep these teenagers busy without the near-fatal 'accidents' that seem to dog Colt's steps everywhere he goes.  Is someone out to kill him?  Who?  And why?  Can Colt solve the mystery before it's too late?

In this sequel, Lewis wisely returns to the most interesting plot thread in Invasion--the super secret training school.  Sadly, most of the book is focused on simply preparing to go there.  The characters don't actually arrive at the academy until Chapter 28 (more than 130 pages into this 250 page book), and the climax occurs mere days after their arrival, so we still don't really know what super secret spy school is really like.  Not that it takes 130 pages for the action to start--during that time, Colt endures giant viper wasps, rogue combat robots, jellyfish monsters, a shape-shifting alien assassin, high speed car chases, and more in his never-ending quest to simply survive.  Then, too, he discovers some rather unwelcome and surprising information about his own past.

This new information helps explain why Colt is expected to be such a prodigy (and his rather unlikely survival in the face of danger).  And since Oz's father runs C.H.A.O.S. and has been training his son since birth, it's hardly surprising that Oz is such a capable fighter.  Danielle remains a mystery, though--her computer skills are impossibly convenientSomehow, this high-schooler is able to hack the most sophisticated defense systems in the country . . . and just happens to be friends with a pseudo messiah and one of the toughest fighters around.  Fortunately, there are a few things Danielle can't do, hacker-wise, but she's still enough of a genius to be unsettling.  Perhaps the next volume will explain away the coincidence of their friendship (as well as finally showing us what it's really like at super secret spy and alien school). 

The characters continue to be rather two-dimensional (possibly a result of the author's background in comic book writing), but the plot holds up better, even if the villain's motivation is a bit underwhelming.  Having established that a super-competent alien assassin is after Colt (with specific instructions to make the death look accidental), Lewis is free to come up with a variety of creative life-threatening sequences for Colt and his friends.  The end result is a much more cohesive product than the previous volume, though there is still plenty of room for improvement. 

Bottom Line:  Better than the first book, but still mostly just something fun and clean for kids.

[Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”]

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