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The Ex-Pacifist (Matsumoto Trilogy Book 1) Kindle Edition
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While I am not a fan of Young Adult novels in general, The Ex-Pacifist was an example of this genre done with skill and competency. While the story includes many aspects of popular YA fiction it does include a good amount of genuinely original material and avoids plot devices that normally ruin YA dystopian for me. The characters are well developed, the world is layered and believable, emotion is well portrayed and the story is consistent in all its concepts and intricacies. The overall tone of the story is very much like a space opera and I would loosely describe it in tone to be like a cross between "Hunger Games" and "Star Wars". I was often reminded, while reading this, of the "Jedi Apprentice" books by Dave Wolverton and Jude Watson because of the atmosphere of the world that was created. The plot is reminiscent of a mystery novel in places, though it never deviates from its popular YA Sci-Fi and Space Opera themes. All together this creates a very textured and vibrant story with surprises tucked into every corner.
While I am not the target audience I did very much enjoy this as a bit of light reading and was pleasantly surprised by its moments of genuine depth and sobriety. For teens who enjoy Sci-Fi stories, romance and strong characters "The Pacifist" will be a very enjoyable read with a good pace, interesting characters, an engaging plot and a brilliant climax.
The story occurs in somewhat distant future, after the humans have already destroyed the Earth and moved on with all the advanced technology to colonise distant planets. At the heart of the story is Matsumoto dynasty with the Emperor ruling over seven planets. The rule is somewhat based on ancient Japanese model, but modernised, and with cruel and quite unreasonable set of rules. The story depicts some quite violent events at times, which is not surprising considering the types of societies featured.
The main character is Vera Matsumoto, cousin to the Emperor and the Ambasador of the Empire. It is not clear why the planets are mainly populated and ruled by very young people, but a lot has changed since the destruction of the Earth. Vera has been trained for her position practically since birth, and she has been well indoctrinated to follow the rules to the letter. Until one event when she doesn't. Her disobedience starts a whole chain of events and reveals all kinds of foul play. The story is absolutely gripping and I could not put it down. I can't say I liked any of the characters that much, but this is completely irrelevant to the story, as it is the idea and the story that kept me mesmerised, not the characters, which are mostly portrayed as pawns in the bigger game.
Vera is a strange character. She is a combination of very skilled diplomat and strategist, and a completely naive little girl. At times, her naivete borders on stupidity and gets her in impossibly difficult situations. However, what makes it interesting is her learning and growing process. She is thrown in impossible situations and she finds a way to cope or even to get out somehow. She is not strong or overly independent, she is intelligent but overly naive, overall nothing special, but she learns and she grows and she has potential to become special.
I find the series irresistible and I immediately started reading further. This book has an open ending, partly resolved, partly cliffhanger, completely infuriating, and I have no idea what happens next, but I prefer it that way. It is a trilogy after all, not a set of standalone novels. The reading order of the series is as follows: Roman Adrift (Matsumoto Trilogy, #0.5), The Ex-Pacifist (Matsumoto Trilogy, #1), The Splitting (Matsumoto Trilogy, #2), and The Matsumoto (Matsumoto Trilogy, #3). The three novels also come as a book set The Matsumoto Trilogy: Omnibus Edition (Matsumoto Trilogy #1-3). Amazing futuristic series and I highly recommend it.
Constructive criticism... Some obvious editing errors, but not so much that they couldn't be overlooked. Found myself skimming over some of the descriptions to get to the action. Overall, extremely well written.