Title: The Rise of Nine
Author: Pittacus Lore
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Genre: YA urban fantasy
The Rise of Nine is a great book for teenage boys and anyone who likes non-stop action stories with endless fighting, but if you like a bit more substance in your novels, you won’t find it here.
In the beginning we were a group of nine.
Nine aliens who left our home planet of Lorien when it fell under attack from the deadly Mogodorians.
We scattered on earth and went into hiding.
We look like ordinary teenagers.
We are not.
Until I met John Smith, Number Four, I’d been on the run alone, hiding and fighting to stay alive. Together we are much more powerful. But it could only last so long before we had to separate.
They caught Number One in Malaysia.
Number Two in England.
And Number Three in Kenya.
They caught me in New York – but I escaped.
I am Number Six. The Mogodorians want to finish what they started.
But they’ll have to fight us first.
This is a tight, well-written story that will keep anyone who finds fighting interesting glued to the page. Personally, I just wanted to get it over with so I could get onto the next book in my TBR pile, and I skimmed a lot of the fighting scenes to speed up the process. You could dismiss this as purely personal preference, but anything repeated in excess looses its interest—except to those addicted to whatever it is. There is a misconception in our society that fighting equals good drama, but truly good drama, be it in a story or a movie, also uses other ways to create dramatic tension eg, surprise, mystery, a task to be completed, humour and relationship development. I’m not saying that this book doesn’t do any of these, just that it relies heavily on fighting to the detriment of character development (of which little occurs), more varied pacing and a more complex plot.
The beginning of this book throws the reader straight into a battle, something that many authors and publishers think will automatically grab the readers attention and hold them, but it only really works if the reader cares about the characters. The reader has to get to know the characters enough to care what happens to them, otherwise they’re not fully engaged, because the fighting has nothing to do with them. This is why I didn’t engage with the story up front. I wondered if the book was a sequel, because there was so little information about the characters or what they were doing on earth, but I couldn’t find any mention of a first book. The information came out as the book progressed, but early on, the characters were just sketches, and not strong enough to really grab me. Wanting to kill their enemies was the overriding motivation for all of them which made them fairly one dimensional.
The book is written in three first person points of view (POV)with a different type-face for each, and for most of the book, I wondered why we needed three when two of the characters were in the same place (they separated later, but even then, we could have dispensed with one POV and made the story stronger). Having several POVs made it even harder to get to know a character well enough early on to care about them. Also, the two girls were so similar in character that, even with the different typeface, I wasn’t sure of whose POV I was in until they separated in space.
I never got a clear idea of the Mogodorians either—what they looked like or why they were so intent on killing the kids and destroying the earth. I had the feeling that the book had been cut back brutally in service of the god of action, something I have seen in YA books before, but it gives the work a shallow, brittle feel, like a movie with lots of special effects in the fight scenes (here it’s superpowers) and little else to sustain it.
On top of this, the book had extremely dodgy role models. The kids seemed capable of only one response to sorting out problems between themselves ie fight, and only one method of handling their enemies ie kill. When they realised that the US government had taken the side of the Mogodorians, why didn’t they try to tell someone the truth? Sure, it could have failed, probably would have, but they didn’t even consider it. Near the end, one of them yelled the truth at a woman but it was a bit late by then and their actions had already made them look like the bad guys. For a bunch of kids selected to save their race, they weren’t very smart—they didn’t even put the chests they carried around in back packs. One of them wishing they’d been given backpacks instead of chests, but didn’t take the next step of putting the chest inside a backpack.
Despite all of this, there will no doubt be a ready audience for it, but I wouldn’t buy it for my child. You can dismiss all this by saying that it’s a book for boys, but doesn’t that just demean boys. As a high school teacher, I can say that though they won’t miss it if you don’t, boys are quite capable of enjoying a bit of subtly if you give it to them.