Subject Seven

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Author:  James A. Moore

Publication: Razor Bill, 2011

Pages: 336

Overall Rating: bth_25_zps13f4f4eb[1]                       

Rating for Action: bth_3-star-rating_zps73bdba73[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_4-star-rating_zps38e772a0[1]

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary:  Subject Seven is part of an experiment to create a sleeper soldier, hidden inside the body of an ordinary teen.  But one night, after being subjected to experiments that pushed him beyond the limits of pain and endurance, Subject Seven breaks out of the secure research facility where he’s being held and disappears.  He then goes on a campaign to find more kids like himself – test subjects who were discarded as failures.  Each of these super soldiers has two sides – the violent monster and the ordinary teen.  And while each of them battles for control of their own body, they must also fight the company that created them– which is out to recapture them at all costs.

Age of Main Character: 15

What I Liked the Most: This is a very creative idea that goes way beyond split personality.  The plot was well executed throughout the first half of the book and Moore really kept me on my toes, trying to figure out what was going on and to understand the relationship between the five teens – Hunter, Tina, Cody, Gene, and Kyrie – and their Other, more violent, halves.

Moore also does a good job of delving into the characters of Hunter, Tina, Cody, and Gene.  I felt like I could understand them and what they were going through as they experienced long blackouts only to wake up in totally unfamiliar places, often covered in blood or surrounded by other signs of violence.  It was easy to feel them slowly going crazy.

What I Liked the Least: I never felt any real connection to Subject Seven, which is a problem since he’s one of the books main characters and is driving most of the action.  I didn’t care if he succeeded or failed.   And since Subject Seven dominates the second half of the book, it was hard to know who to root for.  I wanted to root for Hunter and the other teens, but since Hunter is connected to Subject Seven it was hard to separate the two of them and figure out who to sympathize with.

I also had a problem with one of the book’s basic plots points.  Cody, Gene, Tina, and Kyrie were all considered failures.  That’s why
Janus, the company that ran these experiments, discarded them and Subject Seven was later able to recruit them.  The problem is, I could never figure out why they were failures.  Moore tries to explain it, but the reasoning didn’t make sense.

On a related note, Kyrie seems to come out of nowhere.  Cody, Gene, Hunter, and Tina all have multiple chapters dedicated to them before the five kids meet.  We’re able to get into their characters and to understand who they are and what motivates them, but Kyrie just kind of shows up.  To make this worse, comments later in the novel seem to refer back to things we should know about Kyrie but don’t.  It almost felt like a chapter or two of the novel was missing.

How Good was the Action?  The action is good, but – and this may be one of the few times you’ll hear me say this – it actually felt too violent.  Let me explain.  Subject Seven and the Others are bloodthirsty killers.  They have no real emotions and no sense of remorse.   They handle all of the fighting, and go into each encounter with such obvious gusto that it feels a bit disturbing.  The soldiers they fight are nameless and faceless.  At various points Moore even refers to them as ‘meat’, and the battles are little more than a string of one-sided encounters in which Subject Seven and his pals plow through them, shattering skulls, throwing soldiers off buildings, and breaking their necks like they were no more than dolls.  I suppose that in a technical sense the action might be good, but Subject Seven and his friends are so unemotional, and the outcome of each fight so predictable, that I never got caught up in it.  More to the point, I was kind of put off by the whole thing.

How Engaging was the Story?  The book flips back and forth between being totally engaging and utterly put-downable.   For me, the problem was that Hunter and Subject Seven share the platform as protagonists.  I know that in some future novel there’s presumably going to be a showdown between them – though I don’t see how that would work – but in this novel that never happens.   They have different goals, and yet they’re united in their opposition to Janus.  So while I really sympathized with Hunter and cared about what happened to him, I didn’t care about Subject Seven at all, which made it very hard to feel an emotional connection to the story.

Overall Assessment: This was a creative concept, and I was drawn in to it for the first half of the book as I tried to figure out what was going on.  But the second half of the book was a disaster.  It degenerated into disturbingly unemotional violence and was dominated by some very unsympathetic characters.  In the end, even thought the book stopped in what was clearly the middle of the story, I felt no desire to keep going.

Profanity: Yes.  There’s a lot of it.

Sex: Yes.  There is nudity, making out, fantasizing, and plenty of sexual references.

Violence: Yes, and it can be quite bloody and unemotional.  The violence actually felt very disturbing.

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