The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

rithmatist_brandonsandersonMany years in the future there exists a place, so similar to the world we live in now, but also so different. For in this future world, magic exists. Not magic, exactly, but Rithmatics, the ability to bring chalk drawings and lines to life in fantastic ways. Rithmatists don’t get to decide to master this art, they are given the power at their Inception ceremony when they are young. If one is granted the power, they train for a few years before going off to fight in the Hell-ish land known as Nebrask. If one is not granted the power, they must live their life as an ordinary person, having no connection to this powerful art of Rithmatics, no matter how much they wish to. That is the case for the young Chalkmaker’s son, Joel, who wants more than anything else to master Rithmatics, but is shut out due to his lack of Rithmatic abilities. That is, until Joel finds himself in the middle of a series of strange kidnappings, seemingly committed by a Rithmatist, and he may be the only one who can solve them before it’s too late.

I was very impressed with The Rithmatist‘s ability to not be cliché. Brandon Sanderson does an incredible job leading the reader on to believe something will happen and then creating a completely different turn of events. While this can be disappointing at times, it helps to keep the story from being predictable. Another unique aspect of this book is the fact that there are lessons on how to draw Rithmatic lines in between the chapters, detailing different defenses and attacks, which helped me to picture the story and it’s Rithmatic scenes.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book to people who love Science Fiction or Fantasy, or just books in general, because it truly is fantastic.

Evan G., 8th Grade

The Rithmatist is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Voltron: Legendary Defender, Rebooted and Rewarding

voltronNetflix’s new animated series, Voltron: Legendary Defender, takes the much-beloved 80’s cartoon Voltron: Defender of the Universe and rebuilds the world of space battles, robotic lions, and strong friendships in a new take on the classic sci-fi adventure. With its second season having been recently released on Jan. 20th, fans have jumped at the chance to devour the new set of 13 episodes and now eagerly await more.

Our story centers around five humans from Earth – Shiro, Lance, Hunk, Pidge, and Keith – that discover a giant blue robotic lion that’s been sitting dormant in the desert. Once they’re inside, the lion activates and flies the five heroes into space – yes, a flying lion spaceship – where they meet two aliens named Coran and Allura. They are from the planet Altea, which was destroyed by the Galra Empire thousands of years ago. The Galra Empire has been continuing its tyrannical takeover ever since, and the universe needs Voltron to save it. What is Voltron, you ask? Coran and Allura explain to the five heroes that the blue lion they uncovered is one of five robotic lions that, when piloted, can combine into a massive, human-shaped robot of great power named Voltron. Sounds ridiculous, right?

Despite the absurdity of the idea, this show executes it so well. The action is intense, the alien civilizations wildly creative, and the animation a far leap ahead of its 80’s counterpart. The characters are developed and getting deeper as the show goes on, and the plot is fast-paced and entertaining. I saw the first season when it first released early in 2016, and the year long wait for Season 2 was worth it. The creators of the show, Joaquin Dos Santos and Lauren Montgomery, stay true enough to the original but have updated it in many, much-needed ways. They pay attention to their ever-growing fanbase and deliver quality episodes that continue to appease and surprise.

The characters are all individually enjoyable and have great dynamics together. Shiro leads the group as the paladin, or pilot, of the Black Lion and acts as the head of the group, as opposed to Keith doing so in the original series. Keith now pilots the Red Lion as its impulsive, ready-to-fight paladin. Lance is the flirtatious jokester and sharpshooter paladin of the Blue Lion. Hunk is the food-loving engineer and pilot of the Yellow Lion. Pidge, who is now a girl as opposed to her male 80’s counterpart, is a tech genius and the youngest of the group, piloting the Green Lion. Allura is the princess of Altea, and Coran is her advisor.

Not only have these characters been fully-fleshed out with backstories (although we’re still waiting on Lance’s and Hunk’s backstories) and motivations, but the new Voltron has made an effort to diversify its cast. Allura, Hunk, Shiro, and Lance are all people of color now, and Pidge’s gender change has brought a second female into the limelight. I for one am incredibly happy to see this push for diversity. The dialogue is conversational and natural, and the tone switches appropriately from light-hearted and goofy to serious and heartfelt when called for. In the newest season, the concept of prejudice is brought up and addressed exceptionally well. It’s progressive, and I love it.

Of course, the past 30 years have led to much better quality animation, leaving Netflix’s version with a style reminiscent of the popular Avatar: The Last Airbender. Voltron mixes CGI into the mainly 2D show in order to make the lions, Voltron, and fight scenes stand out. The character animation is exaggerated for comedy and detailed for intensity, switching it up depending on what the story calls for.

Voltron: Legendary Defender deserves a watch; go and see Season 1’s first episode, which is pretty plot-heavy, and you’ll have a good sense of the show’s dynamic. I applaud Netflix’s approach to this classic and anticipate next year’s season!

-Abby F., 12th grade

 

Film Review: Rogue One

rogueone_onesheetaSpoiler Alert!

I recently saw the film Rogue One, the latest film in the Star Wars franchise. I have to say, it was pretty amazing. The basic plot for the story takes place right before Episode IV A New Hope and follows the actions of the main character Jyn. Her dad, Galen was a well known engineer who was taken by the Empire to complete the Death Star. Galen hid Jyn away to save her from the Empire. Many years later the Rebel Alliance finds out who Jyn is and rescues her, as she was being held by the Empire for some small crimes. Their plan is to use her to gain the trust of her long time friend Saw Gerrera, who leads his own rebellion but it is much more chaotic and has been causing problems.

She gets there with the aid of a Rebel Intelligence agent named Cassian Andor, however the Empire decides to test out their newly constructed Death Star while the Rebels meet with Saw. Jyn and Cassian barely manage to get away, and receive a transmission from Jyn’s father (the main engineer on the Death Star) saying he hid a undetectable flaw in the space station as a chance for the Rebellion to destroy the evil weapon. They organize an attack on the archives that have the Death Star plans, which combined with the information Jyn’s father told them would be enough for the Rebellion to attempt the Death Star.

This obviously leads into the plot of A New Hope, and it is done very well. I felt like you really got to bond with the characters, but unfortunately they had to kill them all off because none of them show up in A New Hope. It really explained how the Rebels did get the plans for the Death Star, and the sacrifices that it took to get there. This was a outstanding spin-off movie which definitely should set a standard for any other spin-off movies.

-Max G.

The Martian by Andy Weir

Image result for the martian book

If you’re one of the ten people who didn’t see the movie, The Martian is a book about an astronaut who gets accidentally abandoned on Mars and his efforts to make his way home. In this perfect blend of Cast Away and Interstellar, Mark Watney (portrayed in the movie by Matt Damon) must survive adversity after an explosion strands him on the red planet. The story of his survival on Mars is told to the audience through daily logs. It feels as if Watney is talking directly to the reader. The Martian truly illustrates how anything is possible, no matter how terrible the odds, and that humanity’s greatest virtues is its ability to overcome.

The Martian is the first interesting science textbook I’ve ever read. I know that it’s technically not a textbook, but it pretty much is, just written in the first person and with a story. Andy Weir literally explained every single piece of the science in the book in detail. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that, it just probably goes over the head of anyone not extremely interested in Science. I think I learned more Science from reading this book than I have in school for the past three years.

The book The Martian doesn’t get as much credit as it deserves. In fact, it was almost cheated by the movie. Not that the movie was bad, actually it was really good and followed the book really well. The issue is that, because the movie was so popular and so good, a much larger group of people just watched the movie and forgot it was even based on a book. Even I saw the movie first, so the book felt more like a movie novelization. That said, it is still 100% worth reading, and I highly recommend.

-Evan G, 8th Grade

The Martian is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive.

Partials by Dan Wells

partials_danwellsPartials by Dan Wells is an action-packed novel about the remains of humanity after a devastating virus kills 99.99% of the human population. The story takes place 11 years after the virus, RM, is exposed. Kira. the main character, is training to be a medic and interns at the only hospital. There is no cure for RM, so when babies are born they die within a couple of hours. RM is said to come from humanlike creatures called Partials. It is believed that they have the cure since they released it.

The urge to cure RM becomes stronger for Kira when she discovers that her best friend, Madison, is pregnant. She figures that her best bet would be to capture a Partial and bring it back. After embarking on a dangerous journey, Kira manages to bring one back. She is given five days to study the Partial, and to collect as much data as possible. Unfortunately, she is not able to complete her research because of unrest among the remains of the human population. They are angered by their government, and have become restless after hearing that a partial has been brought back. After the riots settle down, Kira discovers a startling secret about herself. It may make her reconsider everything she has ever known.

Overall, the book had an amazing plot. Partials had one of the best plot lines among recent dystopian novels. A major problem with this book was it dragged on and on for pages at certain points. It was as if the author just put in extra filler pages. The only thing that kept me reading was the plot-line. I wanted to see what would happen and if the cure for RM would be found. Something that I also enjoyed about this book was the whole conflict between humans and Partials. Initially, they were groups against each other; by the end of the novel, that relationship changes drastically.

-Anmol K.

Partials is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Last Star by Rick Yancey

Image result for the last star

The Last Star is the third installment of The 5th Wave, the #1 New York Times bestselling series by Rick Yancey. It takes main characters Cassie Sullivan: a girl who has only survived this long by shelving her own emotions for the greater good, Ben “Zombie” Parish: a high school quarterback turned strike team commander with nothing left to lose, Marika “Ringer”: a former human transformed into a super powered alien weapon who is nearly unkillable, and Evan Walker: an Other who has developed a conscience, through war upon death upon betrayal upon apocalypse as they desperately try to fight back against the god-like “Others” who have all but destroyed the human race. Together, the survivors must face impossible odds, risking the lives of not only themselves, but those whom they love to defeat, an unseen enemy they aren’t even sure exists. And, if that wasn’t bad enough, certain Others may have taken human form, and what remains of the human race can’t even trust themselves. To survive, each person must endure challenges and do deeds they would have never thought possible, including murdering an old lady in cold blood and going into mechanical warfare against a genetically altered priest. And the one question they must ask themselves remains the same: what is humanity if you take away that which makes us human?

I loved this book and the entire trilogy. It’s just such a uniquely written masterpiece that truly tampers with human emotion like no other piece of literature I’ve read before.  It brilliantly examines each piece of the story from different points of view with its four unique narrators, and twists the story upon itself so many times that it’s impossible to predict the ending, which was not at all disappointing by the way. My favorite part of this series is the way that it describes an alien takeover.  In real life, if aliens ever decided to come take over Earth, they wouldn’t land in dinky little ships and come out with little laser guns. In real life, the aliens would do exactly what they do in this series, which you’ll have to read to find out.  I wouldn’t change anything about this book, even if I could, it was just that well written.

I would and have recommended this book though I felt the first movie was a weak showing of the book. People who are fans of Sci-Fi, apocalyptic stuff, survival shows, or anything made by Michael Bay would enjoy this series.

-Evan G.

The Last Star is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

5thwave_yanceyThe 5th Wave by Rick Yancey was a great book. It incorporated suspense, entertainment and was overall very compelling for young teen readers.

The book begins with sixteen year old Cassie, one of the few surviving humans of the four other waves that aliens, known as the Others, have created in order to kill all humans on Earth. The first wave is darkness, all electronics go out and as a result, darkness takes over the world. The second wave is a major tsunami which wipes out all coastal nations. The forth wave is disease, which is airborne, extremely contagious, and results in death. The forth wave are Others, taking the place of humans and are known as Silencers because their job is to kill humans left on Earth. Together, the four waves have killed around seven billion people. Cassie is currently living alone on the run and has a feeling that she is the last human on Earth.

The book then flashes back to a couple months prior to when Cassie was traveling with her dad and her five year old brother, Sammy, after her mom was killed by the third wave. They make it to a camp with the last of the humans, which is run by military officers. One day, a bus comes and is collecting only the kids in order to take them to Camp Heaven to save them. Cassie does not want their family to be separated, but Cassie’s dad insists that Sammy has to go to Camp Heaven to remain safe. Cassie argues, but eventually loses and Sammy is taken to Camp Heaven. Cassie then leaves the camp to collect Crisco, a boy at the camp who is also young enough to qualify for Camp Heaven with a military guard accompanying her to make sure she remains safe. She finds Crisco and is about to take him back to camp when the military guard accompanying her and who is also one of the heads of the camp shoots him. Cassie then realizes that they have been tricked and the military guards running the camp are in fact Others. She runs back to camp and sees her dad crawling out, but it is too late and another Other comes out and shoots her dad. She runs away and barley escapes them which brings the book back to the present.

What Cassie does not know is that a Silencer, whose job is to kill her is and has been watching her every move and is ready to finally kill her. He shoots her in the leg and she hides under a car. The Silencer decides to wait her out. He knows that if she tries to stay, she will bleed to death and if she tries to escape, he can just shoot her.

The book then travels over to Sammy’s perspective where he is being taken to Camp Heaven. He is scared to go but guards comfort him and tell him that he will be safe. He arrives to camp and is checked by various doctors to make sure that he is healthy and not an Other.

The book then takes place in a sixteen year old boy’s (Ben Parish’s) point of view. Ben was Cassie’s crush in high school before the Others arrived on Earth but he didn’t even know that Cassie existed in school. Currently, Ben is at camp Heaven, the same place that Sammy was sent to. It turns out that Camp Heaven is a camp where they train kids to go out and fight the Others when they are ready. Ben and his group have been training hard to become one of the four groups who are able to fight the Others. At Camp Heaven, the kids are vigorously worked in order to be able to have success on the battlefield. Sammy winds up in Ben’s group and Ben takes Sammy under his wing because of Sammy’s age.

The book the goes back to Cassie’s perspective. She was saved from under the car and wakes up newly dressed in a house. She meets the person who saved her, a boy in college named Evan Walker. With the help of Evan, Cassie becomes strong enough to walk again and she learns how to use her gun a lot better. She finds Evan to be likable and kind, the only thing that is off about him is that he always goes hunting at night but never returns with anything. Now, her priority is to save Sammy from Camp Heaven and evan insists on coming with her, but Evan is not who he seems to be.

Meanwhile, in Camp Heaven, Ben’s group has graduated and are ready to take on the Others, but Sammy cannot come with them because he is too young. They are given all the tools they need and are sent out to battle. However, during battle, they realize something startling that reveals the truth about Camp Heaven, the 5th Wave and the Others.

-Matthew R.

The 5th Wave is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive