Friday, March 4, 2011

Invasion (C.H.A.O.S. #1) by Jon S. Lewis--Review

Thomas Nelson, ISBN 9781595547538, January 2011

Sixteen-year-old Colt McAlister is living the dream in San Diego, surfing by day and playing guitar with his friends by night, when his parents are killed in a freak car accident. The youngest of eight, several of his older brothers offer him a home, but recognizing the demands they face with their own young families, he chooses instead to join his Grandpa McAlister in Phoenix, AZ. The only person he knows at his new high school is Danielle Salazar, a childhood friend, but he quickly meets and becomes friends with Oz Romero--whom he's sure he's never met before but who seems oddly familiar.

This is a fast-paced and mostly tightly plotted novel, so it's not long before we know there's something fishy about the accident that killed Colt's parents--and about Trident, the company that his investigative journalist mother was investigating. We also learn that Colt's grandpa has a fascinating history of his own: A World War II veteran, he's believed to be the basis of the comic book superhero the Phantom Flyer, who played a key role in defeating the Nazis' alien reptilian allies...did I forget to mention that? Yes, it seems there are gateways between our world and others, and some pretty startling beings have come through them, including the reptilian Thule, who want to wipe us out and take Earth for themselves.

So when Colt overhears his grandpa and Sen. Bishop discussing the fact that his parents' accident wasn't exactly an accident, and he and his friends decide to investigate, it doesn't take long before they're in very hot water. Trident is controlled by the Thule, the reptilian invaders behind the Nazis, and is the major threat that the secret government agency, the Central Headquarters Against the Occult and Supernatural, a.k.a. CHAOS, exists to fight. Colt, Dani, and Oz quickly find out just how much of a beating they can take and keep on ticking, and how tough, smart, and resourceful they can be when their own and the world's survival depends on it.

I really did enjoy this book. It's a solid young adult science fiction novel, firmly in the camp of the "Heinlein juveniles" of cherished memory (and still available in your local library and bookstore, by the way.) It does have a couple of oddities and weaknesses, though. One is that, although the female characters are in fact presented as tough, smart, and resourceful, it certainly appears that there are no female CHAOS agents. This seems terribly unlikely, and maybe the next novel in the sequence will reveal that that appearance is not correct. The other problem is an annoying plot hole. We're told that the biochips that make it possible for Trident to control unwitting sleeper agents, and which cause their eyes to glow red when the chip is activated, were invented in the past few years by a minor character whom we do meet. Unfortunately, we're also told that the Thule and Nazis were using the same control technology during WWII. Can't have it both ways!

But those are minor issues, and this is a solid, enjoyable YA science fiction novel.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.