Publisher: Parker Publishing (June 30, 2011)
Global pandemic is raging. Olivya Wright-Ono's once loving home has been converted to a hospice for the dying. Her ability to see auras forces her to witness, with agonizing detail, the vibrant colors of life consumed by malignancy. The beautiful and troubled, Mikah, is an elite Empath in the ancient Kindred clan, led by the brooding, ever-morphing, monster named Prime. Mikah has learned a terrible truth . . . the plague is linked to Kindred origins. When Olivya sees evidence of disease creeping into her mother's aura, she has no one to turn to but Mikah. Can he unearth the Kindred secrets and find a cure? Can she trust this boy whose power allows him to manipulate her very emotions? With her mother's life, and that of the world, in the balance, Olivya and Mikah embark on a quest to stop the Pandemic, only to discover it is far, far more than a mere disease . . .
I love complex, hard-to-classify reads, and The Apocalypse Gene fit the bill perfectly. I’ve never read a book with three distinct worlds, one being a futuristic real world suffering from a raging pandemic that is pushing humanity toward extinction, Cyber Chicago, a virtual world, complete with an online school where students are represented by hologram simulations--holosims, and an underlining world of supernatural beings called the Kindred that have been around for ages. These worlds were superbly drawn and well-thoughout.
We first meet an aura-reading teen, Olivya, who’s half black, half Asian. Despite the death all around her, she manages to maintain an upbeat disposition by developing a friendship with an online schoolmate, Micah, and by creating some emotional distance with the Good-As-Dead patients living in her mother’s hospice home by giving them nicknames like Slim and Marigold. She has a deep respect for life, and she is proud that her home is one of the few not participating in assisted suicide. So, when she learns her mother has broken her promise for extra money, she flips out. Her sour attitude gets her grounded--Zeroed--but she finds a way to sneak out to finally meet Micah in person.
Because of the incurable disease and rampant miscreant groups running wild, Olivya doesn’t get out much and doesn’t have the best street smarts, but she’s able to muscle up and use her martial arts skills and her mouth when she has to. When she meets Micah, after a battle with said miscreants, there’s an instant attraction. Micah, a telempath, who can feel and manipulate emotions, believes the pandemic is linked to The Kindred he lives with, and the two decide to join forces to figure out what’s going on and if there's a way to stop it.
But Olivya’s mom stuffs her plans when she learns she sneaked out and puts greater restrictions on her, making it near-impossible for her to help Micah. Her mom is starting to show signs of cancer in her aura though, so Olivya must find a way to get out and find a cure.
Once I got to this part, it took me almost two weeks to finish the rest because I couldn't just glide through it. I had to push my brain through so much futuristic slang, weird spellings, clunky exotic names, and mythological detail, that it was hard to stay engaged and interested. I don't like to work that hard to absorb fiction. And the holosims were sometimes funny, but mostly annoying, and interactions with them gobbled up so much of the story, that I was really hoping they’d get stomped on and turned into dust. This left a lack of joint stage time between Olivya and Micah, and I was saddened by that. I'd hoped to see chemistry, sparks at play and their attraction bloom in a more natural way.
Though TAG gets bogged down in detail at times, there are well-written kick-butt action sequences in every chapter, and the book does wrap up neatly with a great climax. And although this works as a stand-alone, it is also left open for a sequel, and I will definitely read it to see where the authors take it from here. I’m pretty sure with some history now out of the way, it will be amazing.
I give the authors high props for creating non-wimps and a fun, action-packed read. The book was very visual, so it is was easy for me to picture what was going on. And I enjoyed the intricate worlds that they created, I just wish that the info would’ve been condensed into more easily absorbed bites so the story didn’t get stilted by its own details and mythology--which was cool in concept, just burdened with minutia.
If you think a cyberpunk urban fantasy sounds like your thing or you like weird books, definitely get this. This is unique, highly imaginative and fresh in every respect.
*Off note: this book would make an AMAZING graphic novel.
~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.