Friday, 27 March 2015

'Untaken' by J. E. Anckorn

*This review will contain spoilers!*

First things first I need to say a huge thank you to Curiosity Quills Press, for sending me an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I was fairly nervous about reading 'Untaken', because I haven't read many alien invasion novels, but I read and absolutely loved 'The Fifth Wave' by Rick Yancey last year, so I was worried that this was going to be too similar to that and I was going to end up hating it.
However, 'Untaken' is a completely different novel, which really stands out in the genre in its own right. We follow three perspectives: fifteen year old Brandon, fourteen year old Gracie and seven year old Jake, throughout their travels on the road and their attempt to survive and thrive in a world that has gone massively downhill. Throughout the first part of the novel, we get the story of how the three of them met and how their journey began, while the second and third parts follow them throughout the trials that they face on the road. 
One of the most interesting aspects of this novel are the 'Space Men' themselves. At the start of the book we witness Drones, which are little black octopus like creatures, engulfing humans, who then turned up perfectly fine the next day... Until they decided to get on to the alien spacecraft and fly off. It's a very underdone plot, the aliens taking the humans rather than murdering them, so it was a very enjoyable feature - too often the aliens are shown as aggressive and violent creatures that want to murder all of the humans to take the planet for their own, so actually taking the humans to their planets was a great twist. Towards the end of the novel, my theory was confirmed: the aliens need the bodies as hosts, so they invade planets and take specimens to use as their own to survive. I've definitely seen this played out in a few different things, so it's not the most unique of ideas, but I haven't seen it occur that they also take children. The fact that Jake was one of our main characters, but was also an alien, was a great inclusion - his voice was extremely different from both Brandon and Gracie's, so you really got a feel for the different species. In other books that I've read, the aliens have often felt human from the beginning, so it hasn't been a great choice for a multiple perspective, but the disconnect between Jake's voice and the other two was a genius idea.
There were some negative aspects - at one point the group enter a mall to try and scavenge for supplies, saying that they're going in in the early morning so will be out of there by noon, but after what seems like only a couple of hours it is already twilight and they're struggling with the fast falling night. I don't know if this genuinely happens in the northern parts of America, that the day is over that quickly, but it just seemed as though it jumped too much so that whole scene didn't really make much sense. 
Similarly, a lot of the goings on are just much too predictable. With Gracie being a massive fan of films in the sci-fi genre, you think she would have learnt that you never trust anyone when in a situation like this, but too often the group put their trust in the wrong people and get royally screwed over. It wasn't too much of a negative, but when you can predict everything that is going to happen it does kind of take away from the twists and turns, making it less of a rollercoaster and more of a teacup ride.
But really, on a whole, this is an enjoyable book. There's a lot of questions about what really makes someone bad - Jake constantly refers to Bad Men, citing that people with guns are normally Bad Men, but he can tell that Brandon and Gracie are good. Also, with Gracie and Brandon both harbouring ideas that Jake might be one of the aliens who took their families for them, it takes both of them quite a lot to still look after him, both proving his theory about them being good, and showing that you cannot generalise the members of an entire species because of their actions. It's also a great novel for discussing what people will do to survive - the aliens need to take over entire planets to continue on their species, while Gracie and Brandon both consider killing to extend their life spans, so it is very interesting and definitely makes you question what you would do in their positions.
This book will definitely hold more appeal for a younger audience, as the romance between Brandon and Gracie only goes as far as kissing, and the violence displayed isn't all too descriptive or over the top, but there is quite a lot of profanity in this novel - which is to be expected really, when all of your families are dead or Taken. If you're a fan of 'The Fifth Wave', I'd definitely say that this book will be good for you to read, because it has enough similarities that I'm sure that you'll enjoy it, but it's not a direct copy. 

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