Harper Teen 2013
When Wren was twelve, she was shot in the chest three times. For one hundred and seventy eight minutes, Wren was dead. And then she wasn’t. Ever since humanity was struck by a virulent illness, some people, like Wren rise from the dead, returning better or worse than before. They are, in effect, rebooted. Rebooted adults return crazed and drooling, unable to function and dangerous. Rebooted children, though, come back somewhat enhanced – strong, fast, fit. Wren One-Seventy-Eight returned in particular good shape because the longer you’re dead, the more physically improved you are on return. Yet the longer you’re dead, the more emotionless you are as a Reboot and Wren watches her life as if from a distance even as she is used by the HARC corporation to subdue and kill those who threaten a somewhat tenuous hold on order. When not on assignment, Wren (now seventeen), trains new Reboots – which is how she ends up with Callum. Callum Twenty-Two barely died at all and has Rebooted with all his human emotions and few of the usual Reboot enhancements. He disregards orders, treats Wren like she is more alive than dead and slowly cracks open the shell she has placed herself in, leading her to question the life she has been leading for the last five years.
Wren, by her very nature, is a fairly remote character. She finds it difficult to connect to others and her feelings appear to be completely cut off to her. She enjoys her assignments, having no issue with pursuing rogue humans and Reboots, enjoying the chase and never wondering whether those she catches are innocent or guilty. The closes thing that she has to a friend is her roommate Ever but even then she holds herself at a distance. This, in part, is due to her One-Seventy-Eight status – she seems to inspire both fear and awe in those who encounter her which is why her surprise at Callum’s warmth and interest in her as a person is so utterly believable. Even as she struggles to understand why he isn’t at all afraid of her, he allows her to access emotions she thought long dead. What is particularly interesting about Wren is that her life before Rebooting was so horrendous that her emotional remoteness is as much to do with a lack of nurture before her death as it is to do with the minutes that passed after it.
Callum stands out in Reboot because he is so different to everyone else. He’s not human and so doesn’t act with the barely disguised disgust of HARC when interacting with Reboots but nor does he really believe that he isn’t human. His defining characteristic is an almost unwavering optimism even when faced with the most depressing of situations and his adamance that, human or Reboot, his principals will remain the same. He seems at first entranced with Wren, almost seeing her coldness as a challenge but as the story progresses he grows genuinely fond of her, drawing her out of herself with a disarming charm that is hard to resist. Other characters flit in and out, from the emotionally bizarre Reboots to fragile Ever to the human guards who can barely seem to look at their charges. All are interesting and all are well written.
Plot-wise, Reboot is solid. While many reviews have commented that it is primarily a romance, in actuality the growing bond between Wren and Callum only serves to drive the story that lies at the core of the book and which revolves around ideas of experimentation, imprisonment, equality and identity. It’s all very well handled, as is the tenuous relationship between the two leads. Reboot’s real strength, though, is in its originality. Tintera has taken the idea of traditional zombies and turned it completely upside down while still alluding to the more traditional ideas of walking dead. It’s smart, compelling and the world building is great – evil corporations, when done well, are always a hell of a lot of fun. Reboot is, rather inevitably, the first in a series but is both a solid start to what should be an interesting story and an excellent debut novel in that it’s hard to put it down once you pick it up. Which you absolutely should.
This review was brought to you by Splendibird. Reboot is available now. Thank you to the publisher, via Edelweiss, for sending us this title to review.