Book Review: The Resisters by Eric Nylund
January 11, 2012 § 1 Comment
In the spirit of full disclosure, I went into The Resisters really wanting to like it. In high school I read and enjoyed Eric Nylund’s Halo novels and I wasn’t the only one. After writing those books, he received a steady stream of letters, emails, etc. from readers (mostly boys who hadn’t done much reading) asking where they could find other books like them. He pointed them to Ender’s Game and Robert Heinlein, but in the end decided that there just wasn’t enough good fiction for boys. So he set about writing The Resisters in an attempt to appeal to a generation of boys more likely to be playing video games and watching movies than reading books. In my opinion, The Resisters landed right on the mark.
Twelve-year-old Ethan Blackwood has always known exactly what he wanted—to win the state soccer championship, get into the best high school, and become an astronaut. Then he meets Madison and Felix, who tell him something . . . insane. They claim that 50 years ago, aliens took over the earth, and everyone past puberty is under their mind control. Ethan doesn’t believe it. But then he sees for himself the aliens’ monster bug robots and the incredible way that Madison and Felix have learned to fight them. So Ethan Blackwood has a choice: he can go back to his normal, suburban, protected lie of a life—or he can become a Resister.
I talked about it a little in my post on lessons I learned from what I read in 2011, but few things take me out of a science fiction or fantasy story like a world that has logic gaps and plot holes. One of the challenges of young adult writing in general is coming up with a natural way of removing parents from the equation or making the kids the heroes. (It’s why there are so many orphan protagonists and magical swords, but just because I understand the reasons for it, doesn’t mean I’m okay with it.) All this to say that when Nylund introduced me to a ragtag team of robot-driving pre-teens, I approached with a healthy amount of skepticism. Fortunately Nylund didn’t let me down. Just when I would be questioning the logic behind this or the science behind that, he would come through with a well-reasoned explanation and when I thought he was about to settle into tired science fiction or young adult tropes, he would take a left turn.
In conclusion, Nylund wrote the book to appeal to young boys so there’s a lot of action and robots, but he avoids cliches with his characters and plot, and, in the end, it doesn’t feel like dumbed-down science fiction, but a science fiction story that works naturally with a younger audience. I’d recommend this book wholeheartedly to anyone looking for a good book for a twelve-year-old boy (or boy of any age), and offer big kudos to Mr. Nylund for not only trying to get more boys reading, but delivering so well on his promises. I look forward to the rest of the series.