Alternity by Mari Mancusi

Alternity is about a normal girl named Skye. She studies in a course that she love, in a university that she love, doing a dream job as a beta tester for Sims Medieval/WoW game called ‘RealLife : Medieval Times’ and  have a boyfriend who is a DJ for the hottest club called Luna. But she’s plagued with horrific nightmares of someone chasing after her and calling her by a very different name and wanted her to stop “chasing the moon”.

One night, she was lead to a VIP room in Luna where she found herself waking up to a  futuristic underground world called Terra where everyone thinks she is Mariah, a daughter of one of the Circle of Eight, an influential girl and beloved among the Terrans and also a leader of the rebellion, Eclipsers, against their oppressive government.

In my own word, Alternity is a love-child of every scifi novels, movies and tvseries that I enjoyed like Fringe, Matrix, Terminator, City of Ember, (tiny tiny bit) The Hunger Games, Inception and Dollhouse. If you love these things, I like you already.

***

Characterization : 5 Reasons Why I Love Skye Brown

1# She’s a Geek

At the start of the book, I do admit shamelessly that I beginning to like her because she’s a gamer and kept Luke, Katniss and Harrison Ford (Deckard) poster in her dorm.

I don’t know why but if I found when I read a character who enjoyed playing computer games like me, girls or ladies or grandmothers who played games that I like and played it like me, I immediately form insta-attachment to them. Fictional or non fictional. True story.

Earlier in the chapters, Skye worked part-time as a beta gamer for a female-centric company. There’s the argument that some online games can be male-centric and even young boys can be aggressive and trollish to female gamers online which I can relate to. I did play WoW once but I tend to like offline RPG more than MMORPGs since I dont have to focus too much on leveling up or forming a factions and I can concentrate on with the quests and storylines.

Actually, Mari Mancusi my kind of Felicia Day-equivalent for most people when she wrote Blood Coven and created my twin Rayne. Yep, you’re welcome.

2# To Mary Sue or not Mary Sue….. hmm

The prototypical Mary Sue is an original female character in a fanfic who obviously serves as an idealized version of the author mainly for the purpose of Wish Fulfillment. She’s exotically beautiful, often having an unusual hair or eye color, and has a similarly cool and exotic name. She’s exceptionally talented in an implausibly wide variety of areas, and may possess skills that are rare or nonexistent in the canon setting. She also lacks any realistic, or at least story-relevant, character flaws — either that or her “flaws” are obviously meant to be endearing.

From tvtropes.org on “Mary Sue

I have a hate-love situation with Mary Sues in Young Adult books. I do take time off trying to avoid reading YA because  it is very frustrating when you’re switching to another book and… *heavy sigh* its the same person all over with similar conflict and same sexual tension and triangle loves. But I kept reading it anyway.

I do admit, the first part of the novel, Skye is quite a typical archetypal character. A college student who suddenly get suck into a dystopian world. Kinda like a bunch of escapism novels and characters that exist in fictions and anime around us.

It’s not a bad thing to do archetypal character. But because it’s overused by every author in millions of books, so everyone even me can be a bit pessimistic…

But its THE Mari Mancusi. You never know what she will do. And most of the time, I was right about her…. ‘Predictability’ is never was one of Mari Mancusi’s M.O.

For the first half of the book, I was really annoyed by Skye.

I was fine for  a couple of chapters and I was emphatic with her when I saw that she’s been having these nightmares and then flash forward to her life with her friends and studies….  and she got herself into an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ situation.

I think she got into a culture shock or something while in Terra. I know that she was forced to be in a place where it is weird similar but different and she became really scared about it especially when everyone seemed to act like they know her but she didn’t.

She’s literally started to beg Dawn and then Senator Duske just so that she could go back to her idea of normalcy.

Honestly, I had this horror movie violin scratching in my ear whenever she went ‘moon gazing’. Even after Dawn warned her about her medication and told her the truth about it, she didn’t listen! And it can be frustrating like watching someone playing Slender Game or something.

But then, like a good story progression, she goes through a metamorphosis effect where Skye started to get suspicious with things, investigate, educate herself with things that people kept her away from, developing newer thoughts and ideas. Wondering whether some things in her reality are fiction or reality and what will she do about it.

Overall, she started as a basic character until she developed into a better person…. and if you continue on reading, you’ll be surprised by her character because not everything is as it seems.

3# Identity Confusion 

If you know me at least for more than a year, I am a total Fringe frea*cough*fan. Remember how Olivia Dunham got kidnapped and replaced with another alternate version of Olivia Dunham and the real Olivia Dunham got brainwashed by memories of the other Olivia Dunham so that she could play along like the switch never happen and then Olivia began to realize who she is and really really wanted to go back home but the military captured her and wanted to dissect her for her brain… well… Alternity is sort of like that…

When Skye found out that she resembled greatly to Mariah and that everyone thinks she’s Mariah and insisted multiple of times that she is Mariah, Skye literally flipped.

Mariah is a daughter of a Terran Senator and is considered as a royalty as she is a descendent of the Circle of Eight (the founder of Terra) and she is beloved by everyone in Terra until she started a rebellion against the government. A couple of months before this, she disappeared and their secret grand plan were sabotaged by the government and Dawn immediately assume that Mariah betrayed them and left them to her addiction.

When Skye showed up and suddenly being blamed for things she didn’t do, recognized as another great person who looked like her, and where everyone insisting that Skye is just a fake personality… I do understand that she get scared and wanted to go home where everything make sense to her. I could totally empathize with Skye when wanted to stay away from the rest of the Terrans initially.

What can a person do when all identity that make you is just chemicals and fiction!

The struggle with Skye and her conflicting identity with Mariah made this book as somewhat similar to a psychological thriller which I like very much.

4# “Strong Girl Character with a Sword” made right

So much blood. So much death. All at my own hands. 

If you know me long enough, you’ll know me and the Stormdancer thing. (shake head)

Finally I have Skye as a great 101 example character in making a good “Strong Girl Character with a Sword” tropes.

In this book, Skye is having an identity confusion right? Similarly to Fringe’s Olivia Dunham, both of them is embedded with the identity of the other person.. and also their skills. Olive with Fauxlivia’s Olympic-level shooting skills and Skye with Mariah’s pro-level swordsmanship. In Fringe season 3 episode 1, Olive did get scared when she killed several people and blow up a gas station with singular bullet for each target. In Alternity, while being attacked by some soldiers, Skye turned into Uma Thurman’s “Kill Bill” The Bride and did a blood bath. Like a normal person covered in blood, she got sick, and scared. She didn’t go kamikaze killing things because she can. Besides, how could a normal NYU student would react when she suddenly have killer moves?

This book has pages of monologues questioning herself about how could she have these sword-wielding skills and totally freaked out when she killed someone with it.

Alternity isn’t about a girl becoming a strong character with a sword. It’s about an ordinary girl becoming a strong character who happens to have skills with a sword.

The sword is an enhancement to the story. It  can be worked into the world building, the plot and characterization. But it’s not an accessory where you show it off in lengthy descriptions but not deliver.

In fact, I don’t think the author marketed this book using “a girl with a sword and trying to save the world from evil” as a sales pitch. Only the cover showing it.

But because of this, I don’t think its a suitable reading for a very young audience because it does contain some part of violence and blood. However, if you read The Hunger Games and is okay with it, I think you’ll be fine with this book.

Honestly, I think among the recent YA books with sword-wielding female characters in it, Skye is probably one of the best I’ve read.

5# No instalove. No triangle love… but….

Actually, its more like Fringe triangle love with Olivia, Peter and Fauxlivia. I rarely find Female-Male-Female love triangle in YA unlike the usual Male-Female-Male triangle. So, I can assure you, if you’re sick of triangle two boys loving one girl book, you’ll like this one better.

Dawn was Mariah’s former boyfriend and he is  the reason why Mariah choose to rebel against the Terran government. He love Mariah until she betrayed him and the rebels to the Circle. But his feelings for her never fade especially with his reaction when he first saw Skye for the first time.

Unlike Peter who is in love with Olivia but is manipulated by Fauxlivia who she also end up loving Peter who end up wrecking Olivia and Peter’s relationship although Peter still insist that he love Olivia and not Fauxlivia, Skye is rather direct about Dawn’s feeling for Mariah and doesn’t want him rebound his feelings on her. But then when she began to have feelings for him, Dawn did what any other people would do

which in the beginning she insisted that he have feeling for Mariah and not her. Although Skye is slowly developing her feeling to Dawn, but the whole idea in this book is making sure that their relationship development as natural and interchangeable as the plot goes around.

Dawn and Skye are not insta-love. Skye is attracted at the first sight, yes, but it took a lot of Earth trips, death-defying encounters, random arguments and trust-building for them to develop actual feelings to one another.

I really was impressed by the intensity of these two characters. I like it better when romance is written in this way since its far more romantic and effective to the plot progression which the revelations had somehow strengthened the bonds between them. Most of all, it doesn’t read like its forced or abrupt just to fill some empty loose parts in the storyline.

But there are some moment that these things happen suddenly after an intense scene

and frankly, I had some high and low with Skye but by the end, it’s totally worth it.

oh.. there was this one scene…. ❤

***

Dawn

It’s a guy- around my own age. Tall, lean and wearing a black leather trench coat and scuffed brown boots. His eyes are hidden behind mirrored shades and long layers of translucent platinum hair fall into his face, almost but not completely obscuring high cheekbones.

First character description is like any other tall brooding guy but… then he became alive in words and each scenes seems to shine a lot brighter when he’s around… too much *gasp*, a) he’s one chock full of angst..hmm b) but..the angst started to burst out of its seams… c) then he’s like, full of emotion for one guy because… d)… its love… love love love love…

Loyal. Passionate. Sensitive. Determined. Intelligent. Strong. Knows kung fu (ok.. not literally kung fu) and swordfighting. Handsome. Platinum blonde hair (oh.. Spike).. hugable… kissable… love animals….. *asthmatic (hint) gasp*

Sigh… in real life, people like this are always married.. hmmm.. 

Plot-wise on Dawn : It was only months after Mariah left him and its very interesting to see that he is still in pain and hurt because of it. And he blamed Skye naturally since he think Mariah is her who got her memory replaced by a memory serum. I could see that he’s trying to hate Skye but failed miserably at her plea. I do see his frustration and anguish all rolled up in him whenever Skye open up her mouth. His awkwardness and shyness.

I don’t know how I read this much from just words but, its good. Kinda remind me of Jareth (Blood Coven) except less vampiric brooding and emoness and some Magnus’s appeal, except Dawn is not a vampire and kick people asses.

Worldbuilding

The culture, society and the geography of the story isn’t that hard to understand to me but it’s not without its flaws… if you analyse it too much and I don’t want to.

Terra is a futuristic gigantic-scale underground settlement where the technology is much like the Capitol (THG) and is quiet similar to the latest Resident Evil : Retribution’ settings of a gigantic city thriving underneath the surface. Unlike the setting in ‘The City of Ember’ where the underground city is governed by a powerful but weak mayor meanwhile Terra is governed by a Circle of Eight and they kept Terra at its leash and even impose drastic and inhumane methods to control their cities no matter if they’re rich or poor or middle class.

A hundred years ago, a terrible war poisoned the surface and made it inhabitable. (Maybe neutron bomb?) Circle of Eight had built secret multiple underground cities under unused lands and they pick various people from around the world as refugees. The Circle of Eight became the government and the refugees became their people.

But the people of Terra became divided as the richest and powerful controlled the increasingly corrupt government.There were Independents or Indys, the free citizens with wealth who live in opulence and the ‘working class’ called Dark Siders were sent to a much further underground settlements in poor living conditions and restricted aids.

They were sent slaving in dangerous places like radioactive mines that affected the people including children who are born with genetic defects and mutations due to the radiation.

However, even the rich and the poor share the same plight of being under a corrupt regime. Although the Indys didn’t receive bad treatment like the Dark Siders, they still received the other end of manipulation and oppression. The tone of the story at some point reminded me elements from the politics of The Hunger Games, Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles and Huxley’s Brave New World.

***

Mari brought fresh elements into this story which is quite original in YA dystopian and is quite original among the genre. I shall attempt on her other YA dystopian which is “Tomorrow Land” since I love this one.

I’m not surprised that this dystopian world have managed to entice me. Its complicated like any other adult science fiction story and with more substance than most YA distopian these days that focus too much on drama and romance.  There are some moments that I thought all over again about some of the scenes and the issues that the author wanted portray. But most of all, the storytelling  is very effective on me.

Alternity is not just an escapism story about a girl trapped in a foreign world. It’s a lesson in forgiveness and reality, the frailness of humanity against corruption, the unending circle of war and oppression. And of course, love that was lost and found in difficult situations for those who seek it.

This review ARC is supplied by the publisher via NetGalley and will be released in ebook form on 19th October 2012 by  NLA Digital Liaison Platform LLC.

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