Review: Conquest

Posted: December 16, 2014 by in Books We Don't Like (2/5 single_star) Meta: Jennifer Ridyard, John Connolly, Science Fiction, Young Adult

Syl was the first of the alien Illyri to be born on Earth sixteen years ago after their (mostly) peaceful conquest of the planet. Her father is a diplomat living in Edinburgh, where earthlings persist in fighting off their conquerors, despite bringing peace and advanced medicine to Earth. On her sixteenth birthday Syl sneaks out of the castle to explore the streets, an activity fraught with danger as she soon learns when a café explodes before her eyes.

Paul may only be a teenager, but he’s been a part of the Resistance for years, gathering intel, learning to fight, and helping others on missions. He’s old enough now to start leading his own missions, as well as mentoring his younger brother, Steven. After the café explosion, he sees a young woman on the street and takes her to safety, never learning she’s Illyri. He may be part of the Resistance, but the bombing killed civilians, so he knows it wasn’t his people. Unfortunately, his proximity to the bombing causes suspicion.

The chain of events continues from there as a result of that chance meeting. Their lives will never be the same.

I wanted to like this book. Rare is the YA Science Fiction with meaty content. Unfortunately, despite the big-name author on the cover and the hefty promises on the back, CONQUEST’s (Amazon) “meaty content” is more like chopped liver.

The first thing that bothered me about CONQUEST is the narrative style, which is exhaustingly expositional–by that I mean walls of text that tell us about the aliens, about the human-alien relationship, etc. Not only does this severely slow down the narrative (which is why it took me two months to slog through it) but it treats readers like idiots because the authors have to tells us what to think instead of showing us character behavior and letting us draw conclusions for ourselves. We are flooded with information that could have been interesting if it had actually moved the story along (the back cover calls it “densely plotted” HAH).

I believe they chose the omniscient PoV narrator initially because there’s so much readers need to know about the aliens, about Edinburgh, the Resistance, Paul, and other characters.  The result of omniscient narrative is distance from the characters because readers are continually pulled out of the story in order to explain in obnoxious detail about the back story. The authors try to fix the distance by dipping occasionally into the heads of the characters, but this takes the narrative out of omniscient into a sort of rotating third-person PoV, which was hard to follow. It felt very schizophrenic, not something an experienced writer would do.

CONQUEST is all very mushy and over-wrought, so I'm sure it will hook some unsuspecting females out there who don't know what real Science Fiction is.

Unfortunately, the writing style wasn’t the worst part. Perhaps I should make some bullet points so you can understand:

  • The Illyri are supposed to be aliens and they behave just like humans. They look like humans, too.
  • The Illyri are supposed to be “civilized yet ruthless.” Sounds contradictory to me. They claim to know a better way and conquer humanity to help it, but then end up enslaving and killing them. And they wonder why humans have created a Resistance? A race smart enough to control wormholes and they’re stumped by this?
  • Syl is referenced as having an adrenaline rush. (One example of many similarities between the Illyri and humans.)
  • Even those Illyri who didn’t grow up on Earth use human jargon.
  • Their political structure is like humans, as well as their family structure, religion, work, and school.
  • Their technology is a random assortment of better medicine, yet not better robotics; advanced space travel, but not advanced weaponry; etc. They’ve watched us for 70 years but can’t catch a rag-tag group of Resistance fighters?
  • They use aliens from other planets, including a frog-like race, to conquer Earth using knives and pistols.

This has to be the blandest alien race I have ever read or seen. Even counting Star Trek. It’s like they wanted to write a romance story from Medieval England (Illyri overlords who take residence in the world’s old castles; Resistance members meeting in dank pubs á la LotR; and… wait for it… alien witches!), but that’s been done a hundred times, so make it present day and the conquerors are instead aliens and BOOM unique story, right?

The story begins to pick up about the 2/3 mark, with movement that builds on all the stuff (soooo much stuff) that went before. But then. Oh then. (Sigh.) Everything goes absurd. Teenagers fighting experienced soldiers. Secrets are revealed. Political machinations among the aliens ruins lives (sounds human, right?). Even alien-human love stories.

I’m sure there’s some teenage girl out there who will love this book. It’s all very mushy and over-wrought (rather like TWILIGHT), so I’m sure it will hook some unsuspecting females out there who don’t know what real Science Fiction is about. And it will be their loss.

  • Recommended Age: 13+
  • Language: None
  • Violence: Yes, including torture, but nothing particularly intense
  • Sex: Teenage crushing and some kissing

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