Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Domination (C.H.A.O.S. Trilogy #3), by Jon S. Lewis


Colt McAlister and company continue to battle the forces of evil, personified here (as elsewhere in the trilogy) as shape-shifting aliens with nefarious and deadly plans for planet earth. See, portals keep opening up to allow these six-armed 'Thule' and their ships to cross over to earth from ... whatever crummy planet they currently call home. Wherever the Thule appear, they leave a swath of death and destruction in their wake. Humankind is woefully outgunned, despite the efforts of the super secret C.H.A.O.S. military academy and its crackerjack cadets, of both the human and (friendly) alien variety. Colt and his squad know the odds are against them,but they refuse to give up hope and are determined to put and end to this portal business--and these walking, talking, mind-reading, shape-shifting monsters--once and for all. But Colt is wrestling with an internal demon of his own ...

We pick up pretty much where Alienation left off. As we learned previously, Colt McAlister continues to be preternaturally strong, thanks to the Thule DNA that has bonded to his own. As you can imagine, his pseudo-Thule abilities come in pretty handy when fighting the big bugs and may in fact link him to an ancient prophecy predicting the fall of the Thule. Less handy are the rage-aholic fits that seem to overtake him with increasing frequency. It turns out that the same Thule blood that makes him super strong/fast/telepathic also makes him inclined to, erm, overreact in a rather violent fashion. Think The Incredible Hulk meets Harry Potter in The Order of the Phoenix, but with more forcible removal of alien limbs. I assume this is intended to be some sort of metaphor wherein Thule blood equals testosterone--the same hormone that causes muscle development in adolescent males also results in violent outbursts and anger management issues. Never having been an adolescent male myself, I can't say whether the metaphor works or whether it will resonate with young readers, but I expect that it would. At any rate, it allows Colt to wrestle with his identity, in a nature versus nurture sort of way, which is a theme of near universal application. Can he rise above his biological history, or is he doomed to be like the Thule? There is plenty of food for thought here, as well as food for discussion with young readers on topics of personal responsibility and choice in the face of inherited characteristics or behavior patterns modeled by parents or other authority figures.

This is a 'Christian' book, but the Christianity is fairly vague--there is no Gospel presentation or anything, which is probably for the best since that usually results in some seriously clunky writing. Really, the religious content boils down to Psalm 46:1, which Colt repeats to himself throughout the story. This is, I think, a pretty tasteful and effective way to include faith in the story. A hero's reliance on the strength and help of God in trouble is fairly organic; it doesn't beat the reader over the head with religion. Yet the underlying lesson--put your hope in God, both in facing outward hardship (evil, shape-shifting aliens) and wrestling with the sin that has an internal origin (your own alien-enhanced outbursts of anger)--is both important and surprisingly profound.

Less appealing is Colt's sudden apparent willingness to (maybe) kick the charming Lily to the curb. Granted, their relationship has never been clearly defined, and they've got a whole long-distance issue going on, but the previous two books spent a lot of time convincing us that Colt is downright smitten with Lily and the feeling is quite mutual. However, in this installment, we find him mooning over no fewer than two other girls at the academy--a girl-next-door type and the resident hottie on campus. Again, this may be a reflection of the author's familiarity with the adolescent male mind and its susceptibility to, um, visual stimulus. Regardless, I didn't love this development, and I thought it cast Colt in a less than admirable light.

In other news, we finally get to spend some quality time in the super-secret academy, where Colt and fellow cadets engage in all sorts of simulations and whatnot. Honestly, I could still have done with more super-secret academy stuff (they spend the last hundred pages off-campus--and even off-planet). A huge factor in the success of the Harry Potter series was its focus on the school--a setting universally accessible and familiar to students.

Then again, I will overlook many a shortcoming in a book wherein the protagonist rips the arm off an evil Nazi robot and beats it to death (well, 'death') with its own dismembered limb. That's some good writing, there.

Bottom line: Probably an entertaining and helpful book for young readers; adult readers are likely to be underwhelmed.

[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.”]

1 comment:

Diane Estrella said...

Great review. Thanks for your thoughts!

BTW- I have 8 giveaways going on at my site this week and I'd love it if you stopped over and checked them out.

Hope you have a super weekend!
Diane :)