Tuesday, November 10, 2009

School's Out -- Forever

This second book in the Maximum Ride series picks up where the first book left off. Therefore, there may be minor spoilers in this review, so if you are interested in reading this series, I suggest you check out my review of the first book - the series really requires reading the books in order, as there is no real conclusion to the first book. (Wasn't I just complaining about that?)

At any rate, the flock (a group of genetically engineered kids with avian DNA who have wings and can fly), in a raid on a lab in the previous book, has found out some information about themselves and the possible identity of their parents. The only problem is that it's written in some sort of code, which they need to decipher. As with the first book, they are attacked by Erasers, genetically engineered wolf-men - but there is a new, nasty surprise in store for the flock, because the Erasers have been genetically engineered with a new capability.

The flock ends up finding what appears to be a safe place to live for a while, and they stay with a high-ranking FBI agent in her spacious farmhouse in rural Virginia. She even sends them to school, and for the first time in ages, they have enough to eat, enough sleep, and are not on the run. Then, of course, matters come to a head, the the flock must once more take off, try to stay together, and pursue the mystery of who they are, where they came from, and what exactly Max's "destiny" of saving the world really means.

There are elements of this series that I very much enjoyed: Max is an admirable protagonist, strong and smart, struggling to do the right thing to protect her flock; the plot is full of twists, turns and surprises; one of the antagonists is developed so that the reader can understand his motives and even empathize with him, if not with his actions; the pacing is taut and relentless.

There are also elements that have me losing a bit of patience with the series, however, and most of these have to do with straining the suspension of disbelief to the breaking point. I simply don't buy that the further modifications made to the Erasers could be possible, let alone work. A conspiracy involving thousands of people doesn't hold water. I accept that there might be a few sociopath scientists out there, but legions of them willing to put six-year-old children through excruciating medical tests and make them sleep in dog kennels? I don't think so. These are just a few of the issues I had with believability - there are dozens of them. It makes me wonder if there is going to be any true payoff for the many unanswered questions that are continually raised as the plot progresses - such as that voice in Max's head - that will not be addressed in a satisfying way. If I can't believe in the answers, it won't be satisfying. Also, while the plot is nonstop action, it has a directionless, episodic feel to it.

Still, the books are intriguing, and while I plan to take a break for now, I believe I will be curious enough to find out what will happen next to Max and her flock to pick up the third book in the series. I enjoyed Nancy Wu's narration of Max's part of the tale in the Recorded Books audio version that I downloaded through my library's website, although I've heard other versions aren't so great.

Books in the Maximum Ride series:
1. The Angel Experiment
2. School's Out -- Forever
3. Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports
4. The Final Warning
5. Max
6. Fang (Forthcoming March 2010)

School's Out -- Forever
(#2 in the Maximum Ride series) by James Patterson; narrated by Nancy Wu and James Jenner (Recorded Books, 2006)

Also reviewed at:
All Five Stars: "A high point of the book is the constant theme of morality. It takes the current world issues about cloning and commercialization to a whole new extreme level."
Bart's Bookshelf: "In all it’s another great page-turning story, just don’t expect any resolution at the end. Stand alone books these are not!"
Book Dweeb: "This book has everything I generally require in a good sci fi/fantasy: a strong heroine, action, intriguing premise. A few caveats: a) too many characters, b) some cliched/old-fashioned dialogue, c) an interesting premise, but does Patterson take it too far?"
Katie's Bookshelf: "Some mind-boggling new developments and tough situations will leave readers breathless and wanting more. I found it hard to put this book down. It's addicting, I tell ya!"

4 comments:

  1. Someone gave my son the first couple of books in this series. Now that he's reading so much more, he's constantly looking for new series to keep him entertained.

    I used to read a lot of Patterson's adult books. But frankly, I just got bored with them after awhile. Too much of the same thing over and over.

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  2. Stephanie - Is your son enjoying these? I've never actually read any of Patterson's adult books. And I'm not actually planning to at this point!

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  3. I think this will be one of the next series I start when I get a chance.

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  4. Ladytink - I'll be interested to hear your thoughts when you get to this one!

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