Saturday, June 19, 2010

Persy -- Remnants (first three) by K.A. Applegate

It's the year 2011 (this book was written in 2001, so this is much further in the future than just next year for us). An asteroid is hurtling towards Earth. The humans are doomed. There's no time to come up with a good survival strategy.

But they're desperate, so they manage to come up with a last-minute plan. NASA pulls a shuttle out of storage, complete with stasis pods -- but only eighty. Eighty people, most important to the United States government or NASA in some way, are chosen to go on a futile and hopeless attempt to keep the human race alive.

The first book in the Remnants series is called The Mayflower Project, and it's all about the beginning of the voyage. There are many main characters, but it mostly comes down to three: Jobs, a tech-savvy, Mo'Steel, a teenager always looking for a new thrill, and 2Face, a girl with half of her face brutally scarred from a fire.

Along with them, there's a motley collection of travelers. Two brothers attempt to break into the shuttle and steal pods, desperate to survive the oncoming collision. A pregnant and wounded marine ends up with a space as well.

The Remnants books are short, giving the impression that they're kid's books, but I really wouldn't hand these things to a young person. There's some scary and disturbing stuff in these things. The writing is fairly simple and easily understood, so it's not like they're written for teens or adults, nor is the plot terribly complicated, but some of the things that happens... bit freaky. Just a warning.

The second book is entitled Destination Unknown, and is about what happens after the passengers on the shuttle wake up -- five hundred years after they went to sleep, after the Earth was blown into three pieces.

The surviving sleepers wake up to find that not everyone lived through the experience. Some of the pods are overgroan with mold, others just seem to have malfunctioned and contain skeletal remains. Some were victims mini meteorites, drilling holes in the unconscious sleeper. And, possibly the most disturbing of all, some were infested with worms. They were eaten. By worms.

The shuttle has landed, but their new surroundings aren't quite... right. On one side, it's completely colorless, a black and white landscape of canyons and sky. On the other, the colors are insanely bizarre. Blue trees, tall grass, a river that doesn't seem to be made up of any kind of liquid. One of the passengers, Miss Violet Blake, recognizes it as a painting.

They've landed on a painting? Things become more and more confusing as strange creatures riding hoverboards attack the survivors, killing one of the few humans left alive.

Not to mention that the marine's baby was born sometime during those five hundred years asleep, and it has no eyes, and seems to be able to control the marine. Plus, Billy, a young boy who never went to sleep but was sustained by the pods all those years. He went insane. Oh, and one of the sleepers has woken up with one of the parasitic worms inside his leg. He's being slowly eaten alive.

The third book is Them. The place where they landed has been discovered to actually be a gigantic spaceship, not a planet. The world they're now walking around is being taken from the archives on the shuttle as the ship tries to create a comfortable habitat for the humans.

Except the ship doesn't quite know what it's doing, and there are some pretty bad paintings on board the shuttle... while the Riders, the aliens on hoverboards, hunt down the humans, the remnants of the human race run from scene to scene, finally finding themselves on Bosch's interpretation of Hell.

Meanwhile, mistrust and fear is growing among the survivors. Already, five of them have been outcast and are struggling on their own away from the group. As situations grow more and more dire, the main group find themselves having to make decisions that are not only immoral but disturbing.

There are fourteen books in the Remnants series, though you could probably read the whole thing in a single day because the length of the books. As the series progresses, mysteries are solved while opening new ones, more danger appears behind every door, and several of the remnants find themselve right back on the remains of Earth...

It honestly kind of reminds me of a science-fiction twist of Lord of the Flies and the TV show Lost, if that makes any sense. It's one of my favorite series', with just the kind of twists and plots I enjoy. Most of the characters are fairly flat, each having a main trait they follow throughout the entire series and exist for a soul purpose: solving technical problems, fighting the battles, thinking through things, etc. etc. Still, they do surprise you sometimes. Often I found myself expecting them to react certain ways, and was startled at the brutality of several of the characters.

This is pretty much sci-fi, so if you don't like sci-fi, don't read it. But it's not hard sci-fi, either, so if you like the technical stuff, don't read it. But if you just like sci-fi and rather strange journies through weird land with weird aliens, read it! Not like it'll take you all that much time.

Bit of trivia: K.A. Applegate (author of the Animorphs series, more well-known than Remnants) is married to Michael Grant, author of the fabulous Gone series. Gone is actually rather similar to Remnants, only it's more of a cross of Lord of the Flies and X-Men rather than Lord of the Flies and Lost, and it takes much longer to read than a day.
-- Persy

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