Friday, October 10, 2014

Monument 14 and Monument 14: Sky on Fire by Emmy Laybourne

Monument 14 and Monument 14: Sky on Fire (not pictured) are classified as YA. The writing is brain light so they're super quick reads but there is some sexuality (and, unfortunately, slut shaming), violence and a bit of gore and yuckiness.

Speaking of yuckiness, which requires backspacing because Blogger now has forced spell-check upon us . . . when did that happen??? No, I did not mean luckiness, Blogger.

Back to the books, but first a warning.

******SPOILER WARNING! I'm going to describe the plots in two books from a trilogy. There WILL be spoilers. Skip down to the bottom line if you're planning to read these books any time soon or you just worry about these things. It's okay to be a worrier (pat, pat). We still love you.******

Monument 14 and Monument 14: Sky on Fire by Emmy Laybourne are the first two books in a trilogy. They begin with a rather girly male narrator talking about catching the bus. He's on one bus; his brother is on the other. All of a sudden, giant hail falls from the sky, causing one bus to wreck. The other bus's driver plows into a local superstore, drops off its occupants and returns to rescue the survivors. The bus driver eventually leaves to get help but doesn't return, leaving 14 children from the ages of 5 to 18 on their own without any adult supervision in a Colorado superstore.

In this near future, the internet is government run (umm), there's no exit after the store's gates automatically lower for no apparent reason . . . except for a hatch in the roof (good grief - in this country, no fire escape?) and chemical weapons are stored very close to a city with a large population (not plausible in the United States, although Hollywood is fond of that kind of set-up).

It turns out a massive volcano has blown with no warning, causing a tsunami that wrecked the East Coast and took out the internet (which is not called the "internet" but it's been a couple weeks since I read the books, so give me a break). Then, there's a tremendous earthquake in an area with no fault lines, presumably related to the volcano. It's true that a massive volcanic eruption can cause weather changes around the world but I was iffy with the earthquake because of how it was handled, although that may be plausible, as well. Natural disaster is followed by local disaster as NORAD (this part seriously made the eyebrows go up) has a breach of chemical weapons, letting loose a cloud that poisons the outside air and contaminates the water, trapping the children indoors.

In the second book, the children venture out in the bus to seek treatment after one of the teenagers is seriously injured. It does not go well for most of the journey in Monument 14: Sky on Fire, but then I suppose it would be boring if all was hunky-dory.

There are some serious flaws in Emmy Laybourne's world building and some situations that I found frustrating but the one thing I found beyond complaint in both books is the pacing. Things happen. The narrator (seriously, very girly - so girly that when I first heard his name was Dean, I thought, "Short for Deanna, maybe?") gets stuck cooking meals and appoints smaller children as helpers, so there's a good bit of time dedicated to meal planning in the first book but there really is seldom a dull moment as they move from one challenge to another, both in dealing with personality differences and dangers, inside and out.

To be honest, I read the second book, Monument 14: Sky on Fire, only because I had already bought both books and couldn't bear the thought of wasting my money on the second. I'm glad I finished but I won't bother trying to locate a copy of the third book in the series. There were just too many problems with the set-up. The author was too present; you could easily discern why some incomprehensible plot point like the earthquake -- which was preceded by a smaller earthquake but not followed up by aftershocks -- was designed to cause a poison leak specifically to force the children to stay inside the store. In another example of what I considered author intrusion, the hatch in the roof appeared to be created for the purpose of forestalling trouble with invaders from outside. However, the fact that the characters are continually challenged is worth mentioning repeatedly.


The bottom line - I'm too picky for this series but if you like a lot of action and don't mind a lot of questionable world building, you might love it. Some people think it's the best thing since sliced bread and I can see why they enjoyed the reading; the pacing is fabulous. I had to work hard to shut off my annoying internal editor, very hard. But, because the book was well-paced and a great deal happens, I was willing to work at just enjoying the ride. It's not easy to write the perfect balance between action and quiet moments and I do believe that is what Emmy Laybourne does best. With a bit of improvement in her research and world building, I think Laybourne could knock it out of the park in future books.

I should also mention that I had fun reading the first book because -- even while squirming over its problems -- I liked the way the book made me think about how I would handle writing about children stranded in a superstore. The setting itself is thought-provoking; it offers some interesting possibilities and I definitely enjoyed mentally comparing how the author directed her characters vs. how I personally visualized handling that particular set-up.

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  1. I read Monument 14, and I liked it for some of the same reasons you did, but I didn't like it enough to read the second book. And there's a third book, too?? That's two books too many for this series. It's too bad, really. I like disaster/survival/post-apocalyptic novels, but they're never as good as I want them to be.

    1. I'm glad you agree with me! Yeah, 3 books. I would not have read the second book if I hadn't bought it. I'm glad I read them because they provided some good food for thought but would definitely not have continued with the second if I'd checked them out from a library.

      I'm a big fan of disaster/survival/post-apocalyptic novels, too. I've always enjoyed them. I suppose it's only natural that since they've become trendy there are a few too many that aren't so hot. Still love reading them, though, and I usually just stop if one isn't thrilling me. :)

  2. It sounds like you had similar problems with this series as I had with the No Safety in Numbers series. I read the first two but won't bother with the third.

    1. I probably abandon series books more often than most, since I prefer stand-alones. Nice to know I'm not alone in occasionally giving up on a series before it ends!

  3. Anonymous8:22 PM

    I definetly think the author should have just made the main character a woman if she couldn’t write a believable male main character


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