Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Flood City, The Vanished

Older, Daniel Jose. Flood City
February 2nd 2021 by Scholastic Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Twins Max and Yala live with their doctor mother in Flood City, the only city left on a damaged Earth. While the buildings must be built much higher and there is a lack of food, and there are some technologies like Jet Boots, there are also details of ordinary life that are somewhat similar to current times. Max is in an orchestra which is planning to perform at a local pageant, and he also has a crush on another drummer, Djinna, who is the daughter of the local holographer. Things are about to become dangerous in Flood City, however. Yala goes missing when she and Max are wandering around, and a Vapor, Biaque, tells her that she is right to want to leave home and join the Star Guard. This is a tough choice, because while the Star Guard are generally not nice to the residents of Flood City, they are also fighting against the Chemical Barons, who ruined the world and are now trying to reimpose rule. Ato and Get are two Barons who have lived their whole lives in the air, and are being trained by ArchBaron Mephim. Unfortunatly, Mephim wants to nuke the city so that the Barons can take control of it, and hopefully reverse the flooding so that Earth is more easily inhabitable. When the ship they are on crashes, Ato is injured. Max finds him, and even though he knows that Ato is a Baron because of his pale skin, he brings him home and makes sure he gets well. The two boys have a lot in common, and Ato is not sympathetic to the Barons' causes. They almost get caught by the Star Guard, but manage to escape. Things start to heat up even more, and eventually, Max asks Yala (who is not enjoying the Star Guard training, although she thinks it is still important) to come back and help with the fight. Band director Cortinas is instrumental in organizing resistance to both the Star Guard and the Barons, but will he be able to muster the forces necessary to keep Mephim from annihilating the residents of Flood City? I suspect we may not find out until a second book comes out. 
Strengths: This is an action packed, fast paced adventure along the lines of Pittacus Lore's I am Number Four or MacHale's Sylo. There are a lot of appealing, multifaceted characters, and it's nice to finally see more speculative fiction with characters of color. Max and Ato's friendship is heartwarming, since they are on opposite sides of the fight but find many similarities early on. Yala is a fighter with which to be reckoned, and the brief glimpses of Max's music add some depth. The twin evils of the Star Guard and the Chemical Barons, combined with the dire situation on Earth, make this an interesting and innovative dystopian novel. 
Weaknesses: Flood City is a very intricately constructed world, but the details are released fairly slowly, which made me wonder on occasion if I had started on book two of a series. I get easily confused by fantasy and was never quite sure why the people of Flood City were ambivalent about the Star Guards. 
What I really think: This read more like a Young Adult novel, although the characters were clearly stated to be twelve years old. Readers who thrive on complex and elaborate high fantasy, or who know Star Wars movies backwards and forwards, will find Flood City to be an exciting and thought provoking foray into a world that has gone terribly wrong.

Stone, Nic. The Vanished (Shuri: A Black Panther Novel #2)
February 2nd 2021 by Scholastic Inc.
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Shuri finds out about a conference by spying, and is determined to attend it with with her mother and brother T'Challa. They say it might be possible, but require her to finish up some of her training in order to accompany them. Shuri's not a big rule follower, and prefers to concentrate of tech project that she enjoys, but talks to Kocha M'Shindi who agrees to let her train with the Dora Milaje. It's tough to concentrate with Shuri realizes that her own surveillance system was hacked. She traces it to a girl named Riri in Chicago, and when the two talk, they realize that there are a lot of girls who are interested in STEM going missing, including one of Riri's friends as well as one of K'Marah's. No one seems to notice or be alarmed, but Shuri does some research and manages to get an idea of where some of the girls might be. The Ethiopian city of Mekele is not far, so she arranges to travel there on a mission ostensibly to get fabric with the Clothier Lwazi and K'Marah. Once there, they manage to find a compound where the girls are being kept, and infiltrate it while invisible. The girls seem happy enough in The Garden, which is a tech lovers' paradise headed by Lady Nirvana Something seems not quite right, and Shuri has even more cause to worry when she finds her own name on the Bright Future's recruitment list. Will Shuri be able to figure out what Lady Nirvana is up to with her program for tech focused girls before she ends up in The Garden herself?
Strengths: Ronald Smith's Black Panther: The Young Prince has been super popular in my library, and while I don't have a copy of the first Shuri yet, I do have it on order. I love that Shuri is so interested to science, and the way she saved the day in the first book was great. She unearths a problem no one else knows about, gathers help, and saves the girls in Lady Nirvana's thrall before anyone else even knows there is a problem. She struggles with her training because she is distracted, but still tries her best. I often struggle keeping fantasy plots straight, but this one progressed at a nice pace and wasn't complicated to follow, which I very much appreciated! Marvel fans will appreciate the inclusion of characters in the Marvel canon.
Weaknesses: I still don't quite understand why Shuri's mother and brother have so little faith in her abilities and don't include her in important matters of state. That just doesn't make sense. Also, since I am not familiar with the Marvel universe, I had to look up a large number of things (What is S.H.I.E.L.D.? Are they good or are they evil. A tiny bit of explanation for those not in the know might help.)
What I really think: Definitely purchasing both, especially since I had an 8th grade girl who was so excited to read Alston's Amari and the Night Brothers because she hadn't really ever seen a fantasy book with an African American main character. I can only purchase books that have been published! (She's only been at my school this year, so hasn't gotten to investigate all of the titles that we have.)

Ms. Yingling

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