September 22, 2013

Mary E. Pearson: "The Fox Inheritance"

Title: The Fox Inheritance [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Jenna Fox Chronicles (2nd of 3 books, but there's also a short story - read it for free here - that is chronologically book 1.5 in the series, though it only came out after book 2)
Author: Mary E. Pearson [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Sci-Fi, Dystopian
Year: 2011
Age: 12+
Stars: 4.5/5
Pros: Unique premise. A main character you can relate to. Feelings and action packed together. Creative futuristic speculations. An unforgettable non-human, more-than-human sidekick.
Cons: Some common tropes (evil scientist who would stop at nothing, unexpected ally with secrets of their own, underground network dealing in favours). Some awkward relationships.
Will appeal to: Those who think TAOJF lacked action. Those who need to know Locke and Kara's side of the story.

Blurb: Once there were three. Three friends who loved each other - Jenna, Locke, and Kara. And after a terrible accident destroyed their bodies, their three minds were kept alive, spinning in a digital netherworld. When Jenna disappeared, Locke and Kara had to go on without her. Two-hundred-and-sixty years later, they have been released at last. Given new, perfect bodies, Locke and Kara awaken to a world they know nothing about, where everyone they once knew and loved is long dead. Everyone except Jenna Fox. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: To me, TFI doesn't suffer from the typical sequel syndrome so many books seem to be affected of - you know, not being able to live up to expectations/match the hype their predecessors generated. I honestly enjoyed it as much as the first installment of the series, though for different reasons. I give Pearson credit for this - it is, indeed, a different book. Not simply because it has a different narrator, and a male one at that. Not simply because it carries us 260 years in the future. Not simply because of the not overbearing, but still significant amount of action.
Locke and Kara shouldn't be alive, because of what happened at the end of TAOJF. And the shocking truth is...that book was meant to be a standalone. The reasons why Pearson decided to publish a sequel (more than three years after) are stated in this interview (point 2). And if you ask me, I think they're believable and honest.
While Jenna's story was almost a contemporary one (at least when it came to its setting), Locke and Kara's can be labeled as post-apocalyptic, to a certain extent. It's not like the U.S. have collapsed, but they've been torn apart and reshaped. If you need a strong world-building/background, I'm warning you - this won't happen here. Still I wasn't bothered by the lack of it, because frankly, I was more interested in the kids' story and adventures - not to mention, in Locke's stream of consciousness. What I'm going to mention isn't a spoiler (see blurb), so I can address this particular point: Locke, along with Kara, has been literally living in a box for the past 260 years. Their minds have been trapped in an endless void for more two centuries and a half. Pearson explores the nightmare and its aftermath with a masterful hand. Same goes for the relationship between Jenna, Kara and Locke. It can be loosely described as a love triangle, but it's both simpler and more complicated than that - and I found it believable from every one of the three perspectives. Also, I usually hate love triangles with a, if this one passed the test with flying colours, it is really saying something :). [...]

The technology addressed in this novel isn't too far-fetched - all the things mentioned, especially the brilliant iScrolls, are plausible outcomes of what we are already accustomed to. Of course, in 260 years, technology will probably have gotten ahead such stuff as well, but it is not the point of this novel to be visionary. The real point, I think - and this is the trait TFI shares with its predecessor - is to speculate on what makes us human, and how much it can be stretched out without losing contact with the core of said humanity. There's a particular character that (who?) embodies the concept in reverse, so to speak - and it (she?) is probably the most heart-warming (and heart-breaking) instance of that since The Bicentennial Man  by Isaac Asimov (yes, the original novelette that was to inspire the 1999 movie with Robin Williams).
Halfway through the story, we meet Jenna again - a 276 years old woman in a young girl's body. If you are interested in what Jenna's unusual life has been like for all those years, you won't be disappointed. There's this particular choice she made (besides marrying her "normal" boyfriend Ethan) that I wasn't fond of, because I found it egoistical:

A 276 years old woman in a young girl's body, I said. But with a strong advantage over her two friends...she's actually lived for all those years, while Locke and Kara have simply existed. Also, their shared past, and especially the separation their minds have been submitted to, will make their reunion awkward. As for Kara, things are much more complicated than that, which will lead to a crisis of sort. And I'm not going to give anything more away ;). Suffice to say, the ending is both sad and hopeful - and this time, the door for a sequel is being left purposely open.

For quotes from this book click here.
For my review of "The Adoration of Jenna Fox" (first installment in the series) click here.
For my review of "The Rotten Beast" (companion novella) click here
For my review of "Fox Forever" (third installment in the series) click here.
For more Sci-Fi books click here.

Left to right: German Hardcover, Italian Hardcover.
Since the German HC for TAOJF looked the same as the American HC (the one with the blue butterfly),
they apparently decided to go on with the theme...hence the red butterfly.
But in this case, the cover has nothing to do with the all.
And I wonder...first installment, one hand. Second installment, two hands. Coincidence?
The Italian cover is OK. Much better than the the one we did for TAOJF at least ;)

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