Title: Above World
Author: Jenn Reese
Genre: Fantasy (+ a quite healthy dose of scifi. Or vice versa)
"Thirteen-year old Aluna has lived her entire life under the ocean, just like all of the Coral Kampii in the City of Shifting Tides. But after remaining hidden from the Above World for centuries, her colony is in trouble, its survival in doubt: the tech that allows the Kampii to breathe underwater is beginning to fail, and many Kampii have already died. Yet the colony's elders, including Aluna's father, are unwilling to venture to the dry and dangerous Above World to search for answers.
So it's up to Aluna and her friend Hoku to face the terrors of land to find a solution. Once in the Above World, Aluna and Hoku learn that their colony is not the only one struggling to survive -- so are others in the skies and in the deserts. Will Aluna's warrior spirit and Hoku's intelligence be enough not only to keep themselves safe but also to find a way to save their city and possibly the world?"
The plot summary of Above World intrigued me. And the plot itself is intriguing. Far into the future, after overpopulation crowds humans out of their usual dwelling places, they transform themselves into beings based on mythical creatures (mermaids, harpies, centaurs, and so on) capable of living in other ecosystems – the ocean, high altitudes, the deserts, etc.
First of all, I love the concept. The world-building was rather good, with noticeable distinctions in culture between the Kampii (mermaids), Aviar (harpies), and all the rest. There was no shortage of action. The fight scenes were rather exciting, and detailed (the author studies martial arts, so…. There you go).
There’s an interesting blend of fantasy and science fiction here. It’s the kind of thing I would write. I’ve actually already written about bird-people and fish-people…
…which is what made it so disappointing when I could not bring myself to fully love this book.
I never really was engrossed in it, perhaps because that action-packed, exciting pace is so fast. Things move so quickly that certain areas weren’t developed as much as I would have liked.
Right from the beginning, things got a little Tell-y. The information was usually interesting; the placement just didn’t feel natural. Characters talked too long about things that should’ve been common knowledge to them. While reading, I thought more than once, “This book is mainly about showcasing the world and/or technology.”
Character motivations were sketchy in places. They flip-flopped – made rather dumb decisions on one page, then berated themselves for it (literally) two pages later. While some of the characters were interesting at first, I couldn’t truly like them because of their nonsensical actions, or actions that were out of character.
Out of character. That’s another thing I wasn’t thrilled with. I ask you, how can two Kampii children (who to our knowledge have never left the water before) pull themselves onto land for the first time and immediately recognize the smell of smoke? The word ‘smoke’ shouldn’t have even been in their vocabulary. Little things like this were scattered throughout the book, just noticeable enough to distract me and make me question the narration.
For instance [Minor Vague Spoilers in this paragraph, but not too big because it all happens within the space of a few pages anyway] in a colony of all females, where reproduction takes place in a nutrient bed (In other words, no males required) and a couple-in-love from another colony is something to gossip over… In about two pages a girl from this colony begins a relationship with our male main character. This colony began as enemies, not entirely trusting, holding our MCs captive, as prisoners – and then again, two pages later, they’re all grand friends. *sigh*
Maybe a younger reader would be more entranced by Above World, but the logical inconsistencies and the info-dumps within the narrative made it hard for me to really get into this book.