Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Book Review: Feedback by Robison Wells

Good morning, everyone!

Welcome back to another review aimed squarely at those of you who love YA adaptations of Romeo and Juliet set in fin du siecle British boarding schools but need a palate cleanser every now and then where sh*t blows up and robot overlords get their heads hacked off with shovels.

Today we review Feedback by Robison Wells, book two in the Variant series (our review of Variant can be found here).
Very tasty, but not to be confused with fatback
Description from HarperTeen:
Benson Fisher escaped from Maxfield Academy's deadly rules and brutal gangs. The worst was over.

Or so he thought.

But now he's trapped on the other side of the wall, in a different kind of prison. A town filled with familiar faces. People from Maxfield who Benson had seen die. Friends he was afraid he had killed.

They are all pawns in the school's twisted experiment, held captive and controlled by an unseen force. And while Benson struggles to figure out who, if anyone, can be trusted, he discovers that Maxfield Academy's plans are darker than anything he imagined—and they may be impossible to stop.
___________________________

Warning: Spoilers!

Look, I didn't go to many school dances when I was in high school. Maybe it was because I took my fashion cues from old episodes of The Cosby Show.
There is a man running on your chest. I SAID, THERE IS A--nevermind.
But don't feel bad for me. At least I never had to watch my Winter Wonderland dance date get beaten to death only to discover she was a robot all along.

Yeah, Benson Fisher has it bad.

And just when he thinks his luck is changing, he gets smacked in the face with a fistful of "da hell you goin'?"

At the beginning of Feedback, Benson (Bense to his friends, "A**hole With a Taser" to his enemies) has just escaped from Maxfield Academy with fellow student Becky. Becky won't be dancing the Macarena anytime soon on account of a leg injury but mostly because no one does that sort of thing in public anymore. Even so, things are looking up for the pair. Well, they were until Benson talks to Jane, his previously mentioned dance date, the one he last saw battered and dead on a morgue slab.

Awkward.

Turns out there's a whole village of familiar faces. They are the original kids Maxfield used as templates for the "dupes," the cyborg duplicates back at the school.

At first it's cool because Benson gets to apologize to kids he thought he'd killed. It would be kinda like me finding a town where I could apologize to the first girl I kissed for the excessive amounts of saliva.
Bring it in for a snog. No? Okay.
But soon, Benson and Becky discover that The Village may actually be worse than being at the school. The food is bad, nothing ever stays clean and there are constant raids to keep everyone off balance. So basically it's like living on fraternity row.

Worse yet, those living in the village are connected to their dupes inside the school, allowing them to feel what their dupes feel. Good if your dupe is enjoying his stay at Maxfield. Not so good if he finds himself at the business end of a steel pipe.

Benson and Becky quickly realize what any fan of late 60's psychadelic British television has always known: never, ever trust any place called The Village.
Is it still there? It's still there, isn't it?
Benson's rebel gene kicks in and he convinces his fellow inmates that escape is the only option. But when the evil robot overlords realize Becky is Benson's Achilles' heel, she's kidnapped and returned to Maxfield.

The only option is to head back into the lion's den, rescue her and shut down Maxfield Academy once and for all. Actually, it's not the only option. I'm pretty sure running away screaming like a baby with a wet diaper would be high on my list of options. But Benson is a better man than I.

I really enjoyed this sequel to Variant. It felt like a slow build to me, establishing the relationship between the originals and their dupes and figuring out who Benson can trust (hint: definitely not the six identical female school administrators with G.I. Joe kung-fu grip and serial killer dispositions).

But once the pace picked up, it didn't let go until the end. There aren't as many twists here since we've previously established the world and its characters. But the same sense of fear and claustrophobia turns up. The odds stack up against Benson pretty quickly and it's just not clear that he's going to make it this time, which makes for tense reading.

I looked at some reviews and people seemed to be mixed on the ending. I loved it. It was a fun twist, added some extra creepage to an already creeptastic story and opened up some possible avenues for a sequel. 

If you liked Variant, I highly recommend Feedback. I look forward to another story set in this world and for some of the remaining questions to be answered. In fact, I think it's time we started a Robison Wells fan club to encourage him to give us a sequel already!

We could call ourselves, wait for it. . .The Village People!
Who is mas macho than The Village People? The answer is no one. No one is mas macho than The Village People.


Copil can be found on Twitter (@Copil). His horseshoe mustache can be found on his face.

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