Title: The Omega Archives
Author: Erik Melendez
Publication date: December 1, 2019
Genre: YA, Science Fiction
Summary: Born with scientifically engineered mutated genes into a training facility, Alex is anything but a normal teenager. When the facility is attacked and everyone either killed or taken, Alex is the sole survivor. Adopted by loving and patient parents who work hard to remediate him and assimilate him into normal society, Alex just tries to live a normal life. But he and his town are attacked and he ends up being recruited by a counter-terrorist group searching for the mastermind behind the attack on the training facility. And Alex will do anything he can to find answers to why his fellow soldiers were taken and his caregivers and trainers killed.
I’m not a big fan of YA or military novels, but I was intrigued by this one for a single reason: I, too, once fantasized about being a teen spy. That might have been due to the startling number of Nancy Drew books I read, but it was nice to know I wasn’t the only one who dreamed of being a teenage super-something. So, this novel fed into my youthful fantasies. Unfortunately, it didn’t do much more than that.
The Characters: Young and Adolescent
Alex and his friends are young high school students. It’s been a while since I was that age, so I felt like they were juveniles trying to be mature, but what these 14 year olds were doing and capable of doing, outside of Alex, had me cringing a bit and wondering how accurate it could possibly be. I know, it’s fiction, but I was looking for something a little more rooted in possibility than fantasy. Of course, it does feed into that adolescent dream of being a teen super spy/soldier capable of doing things adults can’t. I suppose this would be great for a teen who has such fantasies. It does play into the God complex teens typically have. At the same time, though, if this were to really play into that daydream, then Alex annoyed me because he put far too much trust into the adults in his life and didn’t fight or push back as much as he could have, as much as a normal teen probably would have, though perhaps it could have been because of his training.
As the main character and narrator, Alex kind of annoyed me. I understood his superior genetics and I liked that he was still flawed. He wasn’t perfect, which was really nice. It made him feel like a normal teen who just happened to have had his genes tweaked while in utero. Considering how he was brought into life and how he was raised, though, the normalness felt a little strange. His integration into normal society did take years and was generally glossed over, but I still felt like he should have had more difficulties adjusting given he had literally been born into and raised in a training facility.
One nice touch was the focus on PTSD. I liked that the author was able to make a statement about it especially considering this is a more militaristic novel, but, at times, it made the book feel like it was a vehicle for addressing PTSD. As much as I thought it was nice to include, it also had me a little confused. Alex talked about his training in-depth and it involved a lot of fighting and watching graphic scenes over and over. Considering his altered genetics, I was left scratching my head as to the focus on PTSD. He was literally raised to be a war machine and was given very modified genes, so it left me on the fence about whether or not such an individual would be capable of developing PTSD considering watching and witnessing and participating in sanctioned murder had been part of his life as a child and there was no evidence of PTSD until after he had been attacked at school.
The Setting: All Over the World, but Generally Unimportant
Where this novel took place was not important. Not even the town Alex went to live in was particularly important. There was a setting because it had to have a setting, but it really could have taken place anywhere. The only place that really seemed to have been described was the training facility, which I can visualize more clearly than the town center Alex found himself in a lot.
The story also took place in different areas around the world. As a super soldier working for a counter-terrorist group hunting down one man, of course he was transported all over the world. I’m impressed at how quickly his missions started and ended, seemingly in a single day or night, but, overall, the setting wasn’t really important. Instead, it felt purposefully vague so adolescent readers could live their own version of this dream and adults could recollect their own adolescent fantasies.
The Plot: Continually Moving Forward With Loads of Action
This novel carried the interesting and fascinating idea of a teen super soldier working hard to balance a normal life while being anything but. Alex only wanted to learn what had happened to the place he had grown up in and fight to protect his present and future and everyone in his life. While the idea isn’t novel, I still find it interesting. I liked that the story continued to move forward, both in terms of Alex’s life as a soldier hunting for answers and his life as a normal teen. I had expected a story about a teen super soldier being thrown into battle and war to find answers about his past, but was pleasantly surprised to instead get a teen trying to balance professional and personal lives. The one thing I wasn’t a fan of were the frequent, extended action scenes. These tended to be long fights that seemed to go on and on and on. I understand fighting was a big part of the novel, but it wasn’t written to be terribly exciting, being more blow by blow than descriptive and emotive, and quickly became boring.
The Writing: Lacks Maturity
The writing clearly felt juvenile and showed a lack of experience. It makes sense considering it was written by a college student and reminds me of my own writings when I was in high school and college. It’s unpolished and could use heavy doses of editing. There’s a definite lack of maturity in the writing style as it was plain and absolutely more tell than show. As a matter of fact, I would be hard pressed to come up with a scene that was more show than tell. As a reader, I felt like I was simply being told the story with no emotion behind it, and it left me feeling a bit bored and distant. The prose was repetitive with Alex thinking something and then saying the exact thoughts aloud. It made me cringe knowing it could have been edited so the story flowed better, and made me think a kid had written this novel. Overall, the writing felt very passive, uninteresting, and stilted. There was no emotion, just fantasy scenes being played for the reader.
The one place where I hoped for something a little more, where it might be a little more exciting, where my heart could get pumping, was when it came to the action sequences. There is no dearth of fighting here, but there was an incredible lack of tension and intrigue. As I mentioned earlier, the battles are blow by blow with Alex saying exactly what kind of move he was doing. There was nothing emotional, nothing to evoke anything other than a feeling of it happened. I’m sorry to say it quickly became boring, so I ended up skimming over most of the fighting scenes. They never varied and they lacked a sense of danger and anticipation.
Overall: Not What I Thought it Would Be
I commend the young author for writing this novel, but it either wasn’t my cup of tea at all or the story simply wasn’t told exceptionally well. I liked the story behind it, but the characters had me confused and the writing bored me. Perhaps younger readers might enjoy it more, but, then again, there’s a great deal of graphic violence (blow by blow battles, after all), so I’m not entirely sure what age this would be good for. Older readers might find it unpolished and uninteresting though it might feed into adolescent fantasies. On the other hand, younger readers might find it too graphic, though, with the way and things younger generations are raised with, maybe I’m completely wrong.
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Thank you to the author’s publicist, Shayla Raquel, for reaching out and offering a free e-copy for review. All opinions expressed are my own.
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