Monday, 6 January 2014

Review: Second Life — R J Crayton

Second Life is the sequel to First Life. The setting of Life First was intriguing, though its plot focused on the struggles, family and romance in relation to one woman – Kelsey. The book was enjoyable overall, but I found the main character irritated me somewhat because the choices she made were often poor. The whole bad situation could have been avoided if Kelsey had simply left the country when she realised that she did not agree with Life First policies. Instead she stayed until she was marked for donation and then attempted to run away. Pretty poor decision making there, don’t you think? Especially given the number of people who were drawn into and effected by that affair. The side characters seemed to be more interesting and less 2D than Kelsey. (You can read my full review of the first book here.) Needless to say I was very excited to find that the second book was focusing on Kelsey’s more logical friend – Susan.

Book Information
Pages: 285
Published: December 2013
Series: Life First, Book 2

Good Reads Summary
After helping friend Kelsey flee the country in Life First, Susan Harper is being held captive by the government in the thrilling sequel, Second Life. As the normally feisty Susan’s hopes of freedom dwindle, a mysterious stranger sneaks into her room and promises to help her.

Susan and mystery man Rob grow close as he tries to orchestrate her escape. When the duo discovers the truth behind Susan’s captivity, they realize she is in grave danger, and they must act quickly. Susan and Rob will need more than passion for each other and their wits to succeed. They will need help from old friends, including Kelsey.

Susan gave Kelsey a chance at a second life, but will she get her own?

My Review

I found Susan more likeable because while her predicament was caused by her own decisions, I think most people would have done the same thing. I feel Susan is a much stronger character and handled events in a more mature manner. Her love interest, Rob, reminded me of Kelsey’s love interest Luke. They both have medical links, have both lost someone important to them and both break the rules of the Federation of Surviving States (FoSS). Both of these characters were likeable, but they didn’t have qualities which made them really memorable to me.

A few side characters from the first book make an appearance. Such as Senator Reed, Kelsey’s father, who doesn’t do a whole lot until the end of the book. Dr Grant also makes an appearance and he is increasingly shady. I’m eager to learn about what Dr Grant is really up to, or even the chance to read from his perspective. New minor characters include the Colonel Parker, a character made to instil fear and compliance in Susan and a face to the evil of FoSS/Life First regime.

Second Life has a broader story line than Life First. Occasionally we have glimpses into the world outside the small view of the main characters. I enjoyed these snippets, because it means I was able to see just how the events and actions of these two girls (Kelsey and Susan) impacted the world in which they live. That is the sort of content that appeals to me in a fictional world with such strong views like Life First.

In Life First, the values of the state seemed reasonable, given their history and their use of survival percentages. The state didn’t demand its citizens put themselves against the odds, but in order to help maintain the population it did demand that if you were a donation match that you gave what was needed. The neighbouring country of Peoria rejected such values. So it seemed obvious that if you don’t believe in donation to strangers, then you leave FoSS. Therefore, they didn’t appear that corrupt. In Second Life, however, the state uses many tactics to make things play to their script. They slice pieces of Susan’s interviews together for the propose of propaganda and only attempt to cure her paralysis to show how great they are. Clearly, in this book, the evil and corrupt moral values of FoSS are being exposed.

I really like the multiple perspectives. I find it easier to get to know characters when you see through their eyes. Seeing from multiple characters helps to keep things fresh and it also means the reader can learn a lot more. Crayton gives us Susan’s perspective inside FoSS and Kelsey’s perspective who is in Peoria. It’s great that the girls’ lives, from childhood to the events in this book, are entwined. It also means that this sequel wasn’t devoid of Kelsey and Luke, the main characters from the first novel.

Seeing some of Kelsey’s new life – such as their search for a house outside of the safe Peorian compound – was interesting, but by itself I don’t think it would have made for a terribly interesting book. That’s why I was happy it was interwoven with Susan’s story which took centre stage.

Crayton paints a world which seems also most perfect on the surface, but underneath we learn through Susan and Kelsey that FoSS is far from it. Some minor key players in FoSS, including military personal and doctors, are no angels and they will use any underhand tactics to make things go their way. While the beginning of the book feels a lot like scene setting, lulling the reader into a false sense of security, just over half way through the book the tension really picks up.

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