Ninth City Burning by J. Patrick Black
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
What this book is about:
In the distant future planet Earth and its citizens have been in war with alien forces reffered to as “Valentines” or “Romeo”. Earth has been defending its place in this universe for many years now and seems to be winning the fight against Romeo. But things might not be as good as they appear and our planet will soon find itself in grave danger..
Ninth City Burning is a debut young adult, science fiction novel that follows many different perspectives each presented in a chapter – very much like George R. R. Martin does on his
Game of Thrones series, if you’ve read any of the books. The main characters range from 12 years until 20-ish years of age and are both males and females. The book is organised in four parts containing small chapters no bigger than 10 pages each that read in a first person perspective – unlike the Game of Thrones series – and specifically one character’s chapters include footnotes that she has written explaining some terms, some of which we know as citizens of the 21st century and some of which we don’t understand as…citizens of the 21st century.
The Academy Handook talks a lot about courage. It says it’s OK to be afraid, that fear is part of bravery. It says you’ll know what to do when the time comes, you just have to trust your training. But it doesn’t tell you what to do while you’re waiting, alone under the open sky, sure everyone you’ve ever met is going to die because you’re not strong enough to save them.
A better story than The 5th Wave? I hate to make a comparison between two books, and this is just my personal opinion, but when I first picked up Ninth City Burning and started loosing myself in the story, I couldn’t help these thoughts in my head exclaiming that “this is everything I wanted The 5th Wave to be but… wasn’t”. I’m telling you, this book was so much fun and I didn’t have to read too long before I felt the excitement of a great story sparking in my chest. Finally, a YA SF story that is not too YA and not hard SF but hard enough to be realistic, am I making any sense? What I mean to say is that, the science fiction aspect of this novel is everywhere and the whole plot is based on science and not magic or unexplainable phenomena. We actually get a great big deal of explaining of the scientific system and how it works in plain enough terms that do not let the book become overwhelming or boring but rather quite enjoyable and…fun! J. Patrick Black‘s vast imagination has created a somewhat dystopian society with a hierarchical system that might be complicated but is so plainly explained and built for young adult readers. I loved the magnificent, far-in-the-future look of our little planet from an author with a wonderful, fresh perspective who tells a story that has been told many times over in a way that is entertaining, light and enjoyable.
“The Legion needs you. All of you. Make no mistake – I will turn you into fighters the likes of which you never imagined, but I will have failed in my duty unless, by the end of your training, every one of you considers yourself a volunteer.”
Visiting the old “muliple-perspectives” style of story writting was a great idea in a novel that constantly shows how simply a multilayered and complicated a story can be told. So who are these characters? We are initially introduced to Jax who is a 12-year-old kid with the most important position in the Legion of all as literally the source of the city’s power; a Fontanus. There is little Naomi, a girl who comes from a coda of the unincorporated peoples who live a nomadic life, fending off the land and have never even heard of the war with the alien enemy. Torro is a teenage guy who works at a factory in old Setlement 225 and provides, along with the rest of the population of the setlements, food and resources to the big cities who fight in the war. And many other characters which I will leave you to discover by yourselves as you read along.
We never saw them coming. All at once, cities just started disappearing. A city would be there, everything totally normal, then it would be gone, nothing but rubble and a cloud of dust. By the time we figured out we were under attack, half the cities in the world had already been destroyed.
But if this book was such a wonderful, fun read why did I rate it with 3.5 stars? Well, I will tell you why. When I joined the Legion (as a mere reader of course) I encountered a few small problems that bothered me a little. For example, the fact that the author chose to use some fancy words that don’t really have such an exciting meaning but just exist to give a feeling that you are reading a hard science fiction book. You have a great idea for a story, you have a pleasant, easy writing style, you are not afraid to use crude language and treat your readers like adults, then why do you feel the need to show off (or at least that’s how it seemed to me)?Also, the romance in the story felt very unnecessary and really didn’t add at all to the plot. These YA-isms (I just invented a word, deal with it) are really not my thing. With these two complaints, this book had a solid 4 star rating from me. But..when authors write a great book, they are faced with the very difficult task to give the people a grand finale. Something worth the beginning and middle of their beautiful creation. This was a case of a mild failure here. While the ending was not horrible, it was not great either. Rather anti-climactic, too YA-ish, too simple and completely not fitting to the rest of the story in my view and perspective on how I felt during the first 80% and last 20%.
Usually when something goes wrong, I can at least think, like try to work out a way through it, but right now I can’t even do that. Inside my head, it’s just a mess. All I know is I wrecked everything, just totally wrecked everything. I don’t feel like I’m floating anymore.
I realise that I haven’t really given much of a synopsis, or a real sense or description of what this book is all about and what you should expect going into it but that’s because the conception of the world building is quite massive and while the story is rather simple “aliens want to destroy Earth”, the most fun part of diving into this book is to discover every little detail by yourself, and while reading, experience the creation of great imagination come to life. This was a treat of a story, a welcomed break from reality and dull routine and I can’t wait for the next book in the series to see where J. Patrick Black is taking us next. Young adult readers, do not hesitate to pick this one up and science fiction friends, you do the same.
I received an ARC of this book from Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review.
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2 Comments Add yours
I just discovered your blog and I read it with interest. I enjoy your thorough reviews and I’m always looking for book recommendations. I’m particularly interested in fantasy and sci-fi.
All the best
thank you for your kind words, they mean a lot to me!
SFF is my favourite genre. I check out the new book releases each month and make a post about all the titles that sound interesting to me. Of course, I’m always looking for suggestions myself.
Have a great day,