'Survival Colony 9': Joshua David Bellin makes his YA debut
September 21, 2014 12:00 AM
Joshua David Bellin, author of "Survival Colony."
"Survival Colony" by Joshua David Bellin.
By Corinne Taggart
Young adult novels have been around for some time, and they are hotter than ever. The idea of a dystopian future is also a recurring trope in pop culture.
“The Hunger Games” brought these two elements together to amazing success, and authors everywhere are hoping this lightning will strike twice — including Pittsburgh native Joshua David Bellin.
“SURVIVAL COLONY 9”
By Joshua David Bellin Margaret K. McElderry Books ($18.99).
Already having published three nonfiction titles, Mr. Bellin decided to take the leap into storytelling with his debut novel, “Survival Colony 9.” The book tells the story of a gang of survivors left after a war destroys most of humanity.
They have more to contend with than just the oppressive heat of the desert in which they’re wandering. They are also being hunted down by a race of shape-shifters known as the Skaldi. The plot is told by a teenage boy named Querry, who lost his life’s memories in an event that occurred six months before page one.
Therein lies one of my biggest gripes with “Survival Colony 9” (besides the cliche of a hero who has amnesia) — the names of the characters. A boy with several unanswerable questions is named Querry. His father, the leader of the colony and a man who does not mince words, is called Laman.
There’s a minor character who springs into action at the drop of a hat named Soon. While clever wordplay in names can be done (for example, Remus Lupin and Sirius Black from “Harry Potter”), this is not a good display of the technique.
That is not to say that the rest of the book suffers from the same sort of predictability. The plot has plenty of twists and red herrings. To be fair, it’s easy to figure out what will happen in the first few chapters, but once the novel picks up steam it will leave you with your jaw dropped.
This does come with its own set of issues, though. Toward the end of the book, there is a major revelation regarding one of the characters, but it is mentioned in such a throwaway line that when it is expanded upon later it comes as a confusing shock.
Mr. Bellin has woven an intricate blanket of plot so engrossing that the reader can’t help but sink into like a well-loved quilt and race to finish the final pages. It is only upon closer inspection that you notice that the stitches are hasty and lack a certain finesse.
While rich with similes, more often than not it is comparing something cracked to a demented smile. Despite these shortcomings, this is not a bad book. Indeed, it is a good way to while away a rainy afternoon. Younger readers, being the intended audience, are more likely to enjoy it, but I feel as if all science-fiction fans can appreciate the effort put into this.
The sprinkles of humor greatly help break up the oftentimes overly serious storyline and are occasionally quite witty (Querry mishears “Tooth Fairy” as a magical boat that transports children’s molars).
While the book has great potential to be first in a series, it holds up well on its own, leaving the reader satisfied with the conclusion. It may not be my first choice in literature to have after the apocalypse, but it certainly wouldn’t be my last.
Mr. Bellin will launch his book at Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont at 6 p.m. Tuesday. He will also be signing copies of his debut novel at the Pittsburgh Comicon at the Monroeville Convention Center from Friday to next Sunday.
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