A refreshing Reboot of the tired zombie notion

Reboot (2013)
Reboot (2013)

Today’s post is brought to you by a shiny new laptop, a surprise trip to the book store, and an uncharacteristic splurge for a hardcover novel.  I’ll admit it – when I picked up Reboot by Amy Tintera, I most definitely judged the book by its cover.  The striking jacket design drew me over to the table where it was displayed, but that’s a good thing because then I read this:

Five years ago, Wren Connolly was shot three times in the chest. After 178 minutes she came back as a Reboot: stronger, faster, able to heal, and less emotional. The longer Reboots are dead, the less human they are when they return. Wren 178 is the deadliest Reboot in the Republic of Texas. Now seventeen years old, she serves as a soldier for HARC (Human Advancement and Repopulation Corporation).

Wren’s favorite part of the job is training new Reboots, but her latest newbie is the worst she’s ever seen. As a 22, Callum Reyes is practically human. His reflexes are too slow, he’s always asking questions, and his ever-present smile is freaking her out. Yet there’s something about him she can’t ignore. When Callum refuses to follow an order, Wren is given one last chance to get him in line—or she’ll have to eliminate him. Wren has never disobeyed before and knows if she does, she’ll be eliminated, too. But she has also never felt as alive as she does around Callum.

The perfect soldier is done taking orders.

I had this really unusual, totally visceral reaction to this book, right there in the middle of Indigo.  I think it’s the combination of this weird take on zombies and the strength suggested in Wren.  If you’ve been keeping up with my recent blog posts, you’ll have noticed that I’ve been discovering my inner angry feminist.  Books like A Discovery of Witches and Beautiful Disaster really just piss me off, so I’ve been paying more attention to the YA books that I pick up and buying the ones that seem to have girls with actual brains and/or brawn.  I’m happy to report that Reboot totally fits the bill.

The thing about this book that really does it for me is Wren and how she takes on the more traditionally male role of this narrrative.  Normally, it’s the strong, stoic male character who is drawn to an invariably weak and useless female, and has to save her ass for the next few hundred pages.  In Reboot however, Wren’s unusually long time between death and rebooting (178 minutes) makes her the absolute best, strongest, fastest Reboot in the Republic of Texas, whereas her love interest, Callum (at 22 minutes dead), is almost completely fucking useless.  Wren goes from being a perfectly obedient HARC super-soldier to a decided rule-breaker in the name of saving his life.  Even before the shit really hits the fan, Wren begins to discover that she’s not as inhuman as she’s been led to believe.

For me, the question of morality in this story is also interesting.  Generally in YA dystopian fiction, there are those perceived as “good guys” and those perceived as “bad guys”, and the protagonists will undoubtedly discover that all is not as it seems.  But in Reboot, it’s more difficult  to say who is “good” or “bad” because the Reboots are basically HARC’s enslaved thugs; they commit atrocities because HARC will execute them for disobeying orders.  So while the reader may feel sorry for these teens for everything they’ve been through since rebooting, I don’t think it changes the fact that the Reboots kill a lot of people.  Wren herself confesses that her favourite part about her missions is when her targets try to run; it gives her a valid excuse to hunt them down and do like she do.

The only thing that I found lacking in this book is some sort scientific explanation for how the Reboots age.  Wren is shot dead at 12, but now she is a 17 year-old Reboot.  Not just chronologically, mind you, but actually, physically 17.  Except these guys are supposed to be some kind of walking dead, right? I mean Wren even mentions at a couple of spots that she has a distinct…odour?  I hope it’s something that gets addressed in the next book, as there are some of us who’d like to know.

I’d imagine that if you were a fan of Legend or Divergent, you’d likely enjoy this book.  Personally, I enjoyed Reboot a great deal more than either of those other two.  I found a great interview with Amy Tintera where she discusses her research for Reboot, and what has influenced her writing.  Tintera also has a website, which reveals that the sequel (no title yet) is due for release in May 2014.  I can’t wait!

Until then, I think I’ll just watch this awesome book trailer a few more times, because the girl they’ve cast as Wren is exactly how I pictured her.

(**Update – Jan 16, 2014: The sequel is Rebel, due out May 13th!! And it’s a “duology” for once.)

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