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Let's be honest, fellow Brave Indie Reader, when you download a free indie book without knowing anything about the author, your plans to kick back and relax with a good book for a couple of hours can quickly go swirlin' down the ol' crapper. You're cautious as you tap-tap-tap your way through the first few pages. Don't diss me for being weak, but despite being duped before, I downloaded The Annihilation of Foreverland solely on the title and cover art. No pouring over reviews or even the description. I literally went in completely blind. What a pleasant surprise to find such a talented storyteller with nothing but my Kindle Fire and a wifi connection.
I absolutely loved the premise of this book. A group of teenaged boys on a beautiful island with everything they could ask for; unlimited food and video games, a comfortable room, no real school or homework. They get to do pretty much whatever they want. The catch? Every two weeks their handlers, or "Investors", take them to the Haystack where they are stripped and made physically miserable until they take the needle -- where they get to escape their discomfort in an alternate reality. Eventually, when they're "healed" by their sessions in the Haystack they get to graduate, although none of them know quite what that means.
I won't give away too much of the plot, but let's just say it's a well-woven tale with twists and turns that you don't expect. You start thinking, "Oh, so THAT'S what's going on," only to find you are wrong a few pages later.
As I've mentioned before I'm a character-driven reader, and Mr. Bertauski does an excellent job of drawing me in with well-rounded characters that I cared about. Danny Boy and Reed's plight kept me turning the page, and even the minor characters had my sympathy and/or disdain. Computer hacking genius Danny Boy goes into the needle to find answers and escape -- real escape, from the island; Loner Reed refuses the needle with a Zen-like determination, visions of a lovely redheaded girl encouraging him to keep his resolve.
Having three boys myself, a 12-year-old, a teenager, and a college student, the notion that despite the discomfort of the Haystack many of the boys didn't seem to mind it, even looked forward to it, intrigued me. The prospect of going "in the needle" and into foreverland, where literally anything is possible -- like a virtual reality video game where you have every superpower you can imagine and as real as you sitting here right now reading this review - is just too much of a draw for most of the boys to resist. Would you? Tempting. Kind of like the lure of drugs, they know better but just can't resist.
On the other side of the coin (or the island) the Investors' motivations are a study in greed, narcisissm and the skewing of modern society's moral compass. Again, you have to look at yourself and ask, "If given the chance, would I succumb?" Hummmm. . . .
While I think this book is geared toward the YA crowd, it is also a good, fun, easy sci-fi read for adults. I enjoyed the ride, and will encourage my sons to read it also.
Tony Bertauski is definitely an indie author to watch. He's a wonderful storyteller with a unique imagination, and I won't be surprised when a major publisher picks him up. Actually, in my humble opinion, I think The Annihilation of Foreverland would make a great movie.
Think Matrix meets Transcendence meets Lord of the Flies meets classic sci-fi/fantasy and you'll have an inkling about what Annihilation of Foreverland is kinda about. Keep that at your peripheral because while we're talking about a bunch of boys on an island in the middle of nowhere, run by creepy old men and getting plugged into a 'digital' landscape called Foreverland, it's a lot more.
Danny Boy wakes up with no idea who he is or why he is on the island with other boys around his age. All he knows is that there is a hole in the middle of his forehead and soon discovers the what that hole is used for. At first, it seems like a paradise. And inside Foreverland, there are no limits, and nothing is out of reach. But as Danny Boy goes through each 'round' in Foreverland, there is a ghost in the machine, a girl with red hair, that beckons Danny Boy to help her. Along with her, and two other boys, Reed and Zin, Danny Boy is either the destroyer, or savior of Foreverland.
This is a happy little freebie gem in the world of Free Kindle books. Bertauski's idea is clever, original and seamlessly blending various genres and classic sic-fi/fantasy concepts that made for a very entertaining, and, at times, disturbing and dark read. Every chapter opens up the world Danny Boy is forced to exist in, but also the digital world of Foreverland that is less about all-fun-and-play and more about leading the boys to falsely give themselves into the program, and in the end, their very selves.
There were a lot of great surprises and unexpected twists and turns that kept me going and impressed the heck out of me. There were a few lagging parts when getting the plot going and Danny Boy learning about the islands activities but push through it--it's worth the ride. Bertauski smartly incorporates philosophical elements about self, identity and soul without getting heavy handed but adds it in a very nuanced and subtle way. He makes Danny Boy a relatable kid that you root for and want to learn the sinister and shady side of what appears to be a wonderful adventure land. The writing style is a bit stiff and impersonal but the pacing is smooth and overall, a well executed book. It will pull you in and get you stuck in Foreverland, just like me.
The description of this book is that it is the first novel of 2 in a series but that series is composed of three books now: 1. The Annihilation of Foreverland 2. Foreverland Is Dead 3. Ashes of Foreverland
During a special promotion, I got this book for free and the second for 99 cents. The price is what enticed me to acquire the two books as I don't usually read stories of the youth/young adult genre. I am glad I did. It is written in the simplicity of Y/A but the plot flows well and you are easily immersed into the suspense.
Young boys and especially Danny Boy live on an island overseen by "The Director" and other adult "Investors." It is boyhood utopia. However, they must undergo regular treatments which are unpleasurable so that their mind will willingly leave their physical bodies for "Foreverland." This is to cure them of their past bad behavior. Who are these boys? They don't remember. Why are they there? Well, that is the story.
Don't dwell on whether this plot sounds interesting. To me, it didn't sound great but I was wrong. The story is original and suspenseful. At first, I was put off a little by the Y/A simplicity but the strength of the telling made me forget that as I became engrossed in the book.
While this book is a part of a series, it ends well and doesn't leave you hanging so that you have to pick up the next book. However, you will want to. I am glad I already bought the next book in the series and will probably buy the third.
The book is well edited without a lot of typos, etc. The only negative might be the treatment of the boys but it is not of the level you would see in a horror novel. Just a warning for those who can't watch anything beyond G-rated Disney movies.