ScienceThrillers.com book review of YA science fiction thriller The Six by Mark Alpert.
(extraordinary; top 10-15% of SciThri)
Tech rating (out of 5):
Publication date: July 7, 2015
Category: YA science fiction / techno thriller (ages 12-adult)
Summary (from the publisher):
Adam’s muscular dystrophy has stolen his mobility, his friends, and in a few short years, it will take his life. Virtual reality games are Adam’s only escape from his wheelchair. In his alternate world, he can defeat anyone. Running, jumping, scoring touchdowns: Adam is always the hero.
Then an artificial intelligence program, Sigma, hacks into Adam’s game. Created by Adam’s computer-genius father, Sigma has gone rogue, threatening Adam’s life-and world domination. Their one chance to stop Sigma is using technology Adam’s dad developed to digitally preserve the mind of his dying son.
Along with a select group of other terminally ill teens, Adam becomes one of the Six who have forfeited their bodies to inhabit weaponized robots. But with time running short, the Six must learn to manipulate their new mechanical forms and work together to train for epic combat…before Sigma destroys humanity.
After four adult science thrillers, novelist and science journalist Mark Alpert branches out into young adult / teen scientific fiction with The Six.
We can be very glad that he did. The Six is Alpert’s best book to date–and I’m not even a big fan of YA.
The publisher’s summary above does a good job of introducing the plot. What it fails to do is convey how well-constructed this story is, how totally engaging is the teen protagonist. Adam’s fatal condition transforms boring normal teen drama (school, friends, dating, parents) into something more poignant. He is a complex, relatable, interesting person whose expectations of his own future are upended by a risky choice to transfer his mind into a robot.
The mental and emotional challenges that follow the creation of the six “Pioneers” feel supremely realistic. Building a team takes on dangerous urgency when Sigma, the evil AI (artificial intelligence), steps up its timetable for destroying the human race. Tension grows with conflicts among the Pioneers, who are just a bunch of teenagers, and their military handlers.
In addition to a nearly flawless thriller plot, what makes The Six so good is the way Alpert has fully realized his character Adam. Adam is a believable hero from the start. His choices, his actions, and his fears ring true even in the strange, imagined realm of being a disembodied mind. Here, Alpert has done a great job of world-building, of creating the ground rules for how the Pioneers will operate, what their skills and limitations are. The reader is immersed in the “reality” of Adam’s new state, and connects with the teen’s feelings, including the horror that confronts him late in the story…
A lot of books I read because I must. Once I got started with The Six, I devoured it because I wanted to. The Six is a blockbuster of YA science fiction, imaginative and totally immersive. Teen and adult readers will be clamoring for a sequel.
If you like I Am Number Four (Lorien Legacies by Pitticus Lore), you’ll love The Six.
FCC disclaimer: An advance reader copy of this book was given to me for review. As always, I made no guarantee that I would read the book or post a positive review.