Monday, 27 June 2011

review: Remote Control

by Jack Heath
Scholastic Press, 2010
futuristic young adult thriller
Awesome Awktopus Summer of YA Lit Challenge

Sixteen-year-old superhuman and special agent Six of Hearts may be the most valuable member of the Deck, the team of special agents who employ him, but he's also the one with the most troubles. His twin brother Kyntak has been taken hostage by a foe that may or may not be linked to ChaoSonic, the company with a monopoly over everything; the Queen of Spades is determined to arrest him; and an efficiently lethal girl is tracking Six's every move towards saving Kyntack. Staying alive when so many people want you dead or at their mercy isn't easy, not even when you're superhuman.
The cover:

Green and gray work surprisingly well together here, and the lines streaking with the title font create a very convincing sense of motion. Showing both boys is smart, seeing how they're both essential to the story and to each other. I just wish that Six was in a more active pose -- he looks like he's freefalling, nothing more.

The book:

Every author who wants to write series needs to read this. Remote Control sets up so well for the next book that when I closed the covers, I was tingling all over, the ending with the villain was that good. This novel also stands alone so well that I was surprised to find out it's got a prequel, The Lab.

Also, I've decided: I will never deprive myself of thrillers ever again. It's not just the pow-pow-boom action -- it's the cunning minds on both sides, the subterfuge and secrets, the plans within plans. Yet there's also plenty of rumination on Six's part as he questions his lifestyle, his relationship with his brother and his incapability of murdering.

The world-building is actually surprisingly competent. Remote Control is set in a world where the Americas' population are the last people on Earth, thanks to global warming having melted the ice caps. The "politics" (for lack of a better word) of companies like the ChaoSonic and the Deck in this half-ruined world are what make it so real; the Deck clicked together, working like well-oiled gears in a clock. It's the perfect secret company I've always wanted to read about.

Kyntak is as hilarious and witty as Six is cold and distanced, but both are clearly adept in the field, a good thing because a special agent who can solve/fight/stun/trick his way out of any situation is one worth rooting for. And the way they interact is just so brotherly:
Kyntack grinned. "So I could be the best-looking guy in the City forever."
Six raised an eyebrow. "You wish."
"Oh, you think you're competition? The dark, mysterious look isn't as cool as you think it is."
"Shut up," Six said gruffly.
"I could have you demoted, Agent Six of Hearts."
"Shut up!"
Rating: 4.7 out of 5