Sunday, July 19, 2015

Residue review

    Residue is a Young Adult novel which I was initially rather leery of. I, you see, am unnaturally prejudiced against the YA label despite the fact a lot of my favorite books being inside it. Some of the best fantasy today is being written for Young Adults and my favorite series growing up would be classified underneath it today. Besides, it's not even a particularly meaningful label given has termed the Rules of Supervillainy to be a Young Adult novel.

    Apparently, I should have put more sex and violence in my book.


    The premise is there are two teen protagonists: Jack Bishop and his hyper-competent classmate Alex(andra) Courtney. Jack is the son of the security chief at a genetics firm which, no spoilers as this is revealed in the first chapter, is doing Umbrella Corporation-style experiments on monsters. Discovering that he has ESP to go alongside Alex's more advanced telepathic abilities, the two teens start investigating the disappearance of Alex's father.

    So is it any good?


    Residue isn't an action-filled novel but mostly relies on the interaction between its two leads who have a great pair of contrasting personalities. Alex being cool, professional, and extremely mature for her age while Jack being all-too-normal. Indeed, of the two, I think Alex probably would have made a better POV character than Jack but I didn't hate Mister Bishop and like mentally casting a young Joshua Jackson for him (in part because of the  last name but also their mannerisms).

    Much of the plot is dealing with Jack coming to terms with his powers, learning about the history of the corporation his father works for, and his slow developing relationship with Alex. While the pair do start a romantic interest in one another, it's only at the very end they even consider dating and they're taking it slow--which is a nice change of pace from many YA fiction. I think the general lack of worry he displays regarding his father's disappearance was a bit unbelievable but that's, generally, a mild complaint.

    The title of the book comes from the weird words and symbols he's able to see on objects which appears as a kind of goo sticking to them. I think this is an excellent and creepy set of imagery to apply to the story and works well for the horror-based mood. I also liked Jack growing in his powers like being able to block telepaths, which isn't exactly an ability of immense utility but is small and steady progress which is quite useful. I do think, realistically, he'd be trying to block Alex from his thoughts on a regular basis, though due to what exactly teenage boys think about their attractive female classmates all the time.


    The monsters are well-done and inhuman, which is always a welcome change in science-fiction/fantasy. Too often, they're utterly lacking in teeth. Here, they're treated as genuinely terrifying and vile. I mentioned the Resident Evil comparison but I also think it reminds me a bit of Silent Hill. The fact we get a genuine sense of mystery about them and only have a couple of violent encounters contributes to their menace. It isn't Buffy the Vampire Slayer where monsters are killed left and right, which makes the actual moments where they arrive all the scarier. The scene at the prom isn't quite to Carrie levels for pants-wetting terror but it goes in an unexpected direction I enjoyed.

    In conclusion, while not the most action-packed or pure awesome novel I've ever read, Residue is quietly creepy, suitable for young teens to adults, and possessed of strong leads who feel believable and fun.


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