Sunday, 4 June 2017

The Evaporation of Sofi Snow, Mary Weber

The ice-planet arrived in the dusky heat of summer twilight
Ever since the Delonese ice-planet arrived eleven years ago, Sofi's dreams have been vivid. Alien. In a system where Earth's corporations rule in place of governments and the humanoid race orbiting the moon are allies, her only constant has been her younger brother, Shilo. As an online gamer, Sofi battles behind the scenes of Earth's Fantasy Fighting arena where Shilo is forced to compete in a mix of real and virtual blood sport. But when a bomb takes out a quarter of the arena, Sofi's the only one who believes Shilo survived. She has dreams of him. And she's convinced he's been taken to the ice-planet.

* * *
3 / 5

This was a peculiar read. It's sort of about a combative game but then it's about mysterious aliens, a missing brother, weird politics, and some all around general skulduggery. The Evaporation of Sofi Snow is part mystery, part action, and part confusion. Whilst it could have done with some trimming down and clarification, it's a genuinely enjoyable read with a few solid twists. 

"Sofi, sometimes I hate all the death. It makes my soul tired"

Sofi is seventeen, a hacker and a gamer. Miguel is nineteen, an ambassador of Earth to the Delonese. She's of Native American descent, has a younger brother (Shilo) who she adores, and her mother is in charge of Corporation 30. He's the youngest ambassador ever, of Spanish descent, and bilingual. They narrate in alternating chapters and both are solid narrators backed up by a decent, if scientifically questionable, story. 

We open with Sofi's brother Shilo partaking in some sort of violent game, with Sofi leading a sort of tech gamer crew behind the scenes. The game itself is a dangerous obstacle race with no rules on competitors attacking and undermining each other. The contestants are supported by their off-site teams, who are allowed to insert their own code into the virtual game to take out the opposition. I say virtual game, but I found this opening a touch confusing because all the characters were treating the game as though it were real, speaking of ex-contestants living without limbs and such, as though they were permanently harmed. Then there's the Delonese, peculiar aliens, being mentioned without much explanation. It's an action packed start to a novel, but it's not a very clear one.

She pulled her knees up to her chest and fell back asleep, safely away from the person who had been her first innocent love

Fear not, The Evaporation of Sofi Snow does get a lot better. Sofi is a good character. She's driven by a love for her brother who, after a bomb goes off in the game arena, vanishes. He is presumed dead. But then again, so is Sofi, who is in fact kidnapped by members of her mother's corporation; her mother, whilst not a particularly nice lady, has no idea her daughter is in fact alive and being experimented on. Then there's car chases, spaceship flying, political manoeuvrings, and good ol' fist fights. Once I struggled past the beginning and the lack of general understanding of the world Weber had created, this was a really fun book.  

Miguel on the other hand is a bit weird. It states somewhere that he's been an ambassador for three years, which implies that they made a sixteen year old boy an ambassador to a potentially hostile and definitely bizarre alien race. I'm not buying it. I wouldn't make anyone under thirty an ambassador, and not without a great amount of training and experience. What I did like was his bi-linguality and frequent use of Spanish. He also manages to be quite charming without being either creepy or cringy, which is too fine a line for many authors to walk! I definitely grew fonder of Miguel as the book went on.

"We are one," Danya translated. "In soul. In beliefs. In harmony. In favour."

Then there's Miguel and Sofi together. I quite like it when characters have a romantic history. It makes them feel a bit more real and often avoids much of the flirtation or awkward first kisses. At least I did quite like it until the reason why Miguel and Sofi broke off their relationship in the first place is brought to light; I thought it was a bit of a childish reason and rather undeveloped. Neither is the backing cast that great; Claudius is Miguel's fellow ambassador and a sort of rakish playboy, Heller is Sofi's fellow gamer tech and is a bit creepy. I didn't care that much for either of them; Sofi and Miguel are far and away the strongest characters.

I'd recommend this to those that like their YA with a dash of mystery. The ending was also superb and I did not see it coming, so I'm definitely interested in reading the next book.

My thanks to Netgalley, the publisher, and the author for an ARC of this book. 

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