Maybe it’s the times we live in. Maybe it’s a phase I am going through. Regardless, I have been totally wrapped up in science fiction books that are dystopian, or apocalyptic, or wrapped in government conspiracy. Amy S. Foster’s recent release, The Rift Uprising checks off a couple of those boxes, and was a great read. This is one of the books in my article on must-read sci-fi new releases.
There seems to be some confusion about how to categorize this book. It has a cast of primary characters that are teenagers. So is it a Young Adult title? There are definitely some adult themes. Is it adult sci-fi? (Is that a paradox?) If there is a category between, this is it.
The story takes place in the near future, 2020 to be exact. The premise is incredibly well-conceived. A dark matter experiment gone bad causes a portal, a rift, if you will, to open in a woodland area in the state of Washington. It is a gateway to the multiverse. Lots of different Earths. The trouble is that it can’t be controlled. It pops open whenever it wants and deposits any manner of beings from any of the other gazillion Earths into this one. A short time after the Rift opens in 2005, 13 more open around the world. Why do people have to mess with dark matter? It never goes well.
The governments of the world recognize the threat these Rifts pose and create a cooperative organization, ARC, to stand guard over the Rifts and to effectively hide the Rifts existence from the citizens of the world. With the help of an advanced race that comes through the Rift early on, ARC uses advanced technology to create super soldiers. The only trouble? In order for the technology to work, it has to be implanted in kids at a young age and they become super soldiers at about 14 years old. Just what we need, moody teenagers with super powers. Yeesh.
The main characters the The Rift Uprising are Ryn Whittaker and her team of Rift Guards, called Citadels – Henry, Boone and Violet. All is well in the world, and this well-oiled fighting machine are prepared to fight even the most ruthless of “immigrants” (yep, Foster calls them that – I know, a harbinger, right?). Citadel Ryn is ready for anything the Rift can toss at her and the Beta Team. Well, almost anything. She isn’t ready for a kid, her own age and super smart, and questioning everything she has been taught. When Ezra comes through the Rift, Ryn’s whole world changes.
The book is action packed, full of big government conspiracy, and even sprinkled with typical teenager problems. I found that to be part of the charm of this book. Maybe it is because I work with teenagers every day, but I often found myself nodding my head or chuckling knowingly, as Foster nailed it. The teenageness (I like to invent words) is what adds some great depth and vulnerability to the characters.
Some of the criticism of the book included that Ryn’s character is a bit self-absorbed and stand offish. Have you ever met a teenager? The character was well developed and authentic. Another theme in the disapproving reviews of the book is that the characters focus too much on sex. While I can see the validity of the comments, I disagree. The reason it is a theme in the book at all is because the Citadels cannot share any kind of intimacy, including sex. Sex is just the glaring illustration of what was willfully taken from the Citadels.
My biggest criticism of the the book is that Foster seemed to go out of her way to PACK the book with pop culture references. Just flipping back through a fraction of the pages I found references to NPR, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, X-Men, Wonder Woman, Twilight, Christian Bale (a debate about whether it was American Psycho Christian Bale or The Machinist Christian Bale), Game of Thrones and Starbucks. It seemed a bit gratuitous to me, almost like blatant product placement, and it definitely stood out enough to pull me out of the story.
Additionally, there were a few contrivances along the way, Ryn’s parents conveniently having a tradition of being out of town for a few weeks as the action of this book takes place. A little too easy for me, however, not enough to stop me from enjoying the hell out of this page turner.
As the book charges towards the end, Ryn develops as a hero of Catniss Everdeen proportions, and the final pages bring a huge twist that I never saw coming. A twist that made me immediately swear out loud (is that SOL?), as I realized I was months or maybe even a year or more away from being able to pick up where this story left off. Booger. (We try not to SOL much at The Geekiverse).
I’ve been really lucky this year, reading and reviewing a lot of books that I really enjoyed. Eliot Peper’s Cumulus, Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter (another multiverse story), Charlie Jane Ander’s All the Birds in the Sky, and I gotta tell you, The Rift Uprising is right up there.
If the series continues to be as engaging, I sure hope some makes a film of it. It has tons of action, and compelling characters and the concept of the Rift itself and moody teenage super soldiers is really a winner. It also would provide a great vehicle for some visual effects.
Amy S. Foster makes her living as both a novelist AND an award-winning songwriter who has collaborated with the likes of artists like Michael Bublé and Beyoncé and I am certain other greats with accent marks in their names.
Final Score: 9/10
+ Concept – the accidental opening of uncontrollable doors to the multiverse – totally sweet.
+ Characters – I like them, even at their brattiest.
+ Action – Tons of action.
+ Twist ending – Yep, never saw that coming.
– Pop-culture references – too many.
– Contrivances – a few along the way I said to myself – “Um…no”
Can’t wait for the next installment.
In my one man mission to keep classic sci-fi alive for younger generations, I am currently re-reading Isaac Asimov’s Foundation . Watch for a review of that soon. Got a book you’d like to share? Leave it in the comments below.
Pete Herr is the author of “10 Things We Should Teach You In High School and Usually Don’t”. He is the oldest geek in the Geekiverse by a factor of two. Follow Pete Herr on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram . If you don’t he gets Grumpy. You don’t want to see him Grumpy.
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