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ELISE Episode 1 : To Touch the Ground Paperback – July 18, 2012
"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Learn more
About the Author
Katsuo Takeda is a pen name for J.A. Stockwell for manga-inspired fiction. Growing up, he loved watching Star Blazers, Force Five, Gundam, Battle of the Planets, and all sorts of anime.
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The story centers on a universe where two-faced, lazy contractors, aliens known as the Otruk, have hijacked Earth. These beings showed up on Earth after the planet had become overpopulated and over polluted. They offer to help fix the problem and give humanity the technology to advance to the stars while they wait for the Otruk to fix their problem. Did no one bother to question why an alien race would suddenly want to fix their planet? Not to mention, give them access to new technology and not want anything in return? Either something is missing or this is just overlooked. Considering this is only the first book, we can't call plot holes yet. We need to see how the story plays out.
The teenage academy student, Trip is the center of this adventure. He, along with other teens are part of an academy for the Earth Defense Force (EDF for short), where they are being trained for an upcoming war with the Otruk to take their planet back. Trip's closest friends, Silvy and Radashi "Rad" are also pilots that appear to support him well. There's not much background on any of these characters just yet so the reader has to take them all at face value. When we're first introduced to Trip, he is being bully by Ven, an arrogant and jealous foil to Trip. At least he can serve as a foil character for the short duration of this book. Silvy intervenes which makes Trip blush with embarrassment and thus showcases the feelings that Trip has for Silvy.
The first book focuses solely on the academy and the three different training assignments given to the students. The war is planning to be fought using mecha, known as F-10s. They are battle suits that look like giant samurai warriors and utilize a bio-gel to reproduce an oxygen based liquid environment for their pilots while they are connected to the suit directly through nerve-links. Think Evangelion and you'll get the idea. These suits have more in common with Eva units than any other type of mech story. They rely solely on the pilot's direct connection to the machine. For the sake of training, the students use a model similar to the F-10, the X-32.
There are really not a lot of character development moments in this book because it's so short. The characters stay the same through out the entire adventure. You can get a sense of their individual personalities here and there through their actions, but they're not given the proper time to grow and the reader isn't allowed to explore each character properly. There comes a moment in the story where Silvy tears at Trip and blames him for a failure, but in doing so, defends Rad who was assigned to be the leader of their unit. This is the one real moment where you can see some character potential. Silvy has feelings for Rad most likely and Trip has a thing for Silvy, while Rad is too busy doubting his abilities to notice. But none of this is confirmed in the first book, it's just left as speculation.
Action: It's solidly written. The mecha action is more strategic and army based than one on one Armored Core or any of the main Gundam series. It has a militaristic feel and the pilots are forced to take their environment into account before making decisions. That being said, they end pretty quickly and aren't extremely detailed, but they get the job done.
There are 2 other episodes released and available for ELISE, but they too seem short. I feel like Episode 1 is just the first section to a full novel and Episode 2 and 3 would be the next sections. It comes across like it was originally part of a bigger book and then ripped away to become a stand-alone book to sell on its own. The writing and the descriptive wording are good and so is the dialogue. I want to care for these characters, and I sort of do when it comes to Trip. But I can't find any real connection to the rest. There's one moment where Rad is describing Earth that comes off real. These students have never seen their home planet, so there is a sort of longing there for them that seems legitimate.
Overall, I'd give this a 2.5 or 3 for round up on Amazon out of 5. It has potential, the writing is solid but it's just too short to be engaging. The author forces the reader to drop $3 to read only a section of a bigger story that should be in a single, full-length novel format. Either that or a manga volume. The art on the cover and the single splash page in the middle of the book come off with manga influences. If this were a fully illustrated manga then the content in this first book would work. But as just words on a page, it should meet the minimum expectation of 50,000 words to become a stand-alone novel. The other 2 available books in this series are just as short. I believe there is a 4th book being edited now as well. Assuming that one is also 50 pages in print length, then this entire ELISE series would fit into one single novel around 200 pages. Instead of dropping $3 four times, costing you $12 for an e-book, this should have been saved until the full story was done and sold as one single book for an appropriate e-book price of $3. I read this in under an hour, that's too quick for a novel length book, e-book or print. While the story and the writing has potential and is good, the decision to split this up into short segments and sell them each at the price of a full-length 400-page e-book is questionable.
I would wait and see if a bundle option will ever happen before dropping $3 on each short, hour-long reading journey.