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Title & Author: Ultraxenopia: Project W.A.R., M.A. Phipps

Genre & Publication Date: Dystopian, January 15, 2016

Book Description: “Don’t stand out. Blend in. Remain invisible. Those are the rules I lived by—the rules I thought would keep me alive.

I was wrong.

Wynter Reeves is a law-abiding citizen of the State, a willing conformist whose daily life is haunted by terrorism and oppression. With the constant threat of death hanging over her like a shadow, she forces herself to live by a strict set of rules, all in the hope of ensuring she is never noticed. However, on her twenty-first birthday, as she prepares to take the placement exam that will determine her future within society, she begins to show symptoms of a rare and debilitating illness—ultimately attracting the attention of the State. Taken into the custody of the feared research facility known as the DSD, her worst nightmare becomes reality.

Ripped away from the life she knew, Wynter is forced to become the test subject of the mysterious Dr. Richter. Through him, she learns the true and terrifying nature of her condition: a disease called Ultraxenopia.”

First Line: “The train is now approaching Central Station.”

My Take: This book was provided by the author for review.

I really wanted to like this one. As I read the book, I could sense the author’s enthusiasm for the story and love of the characters, but I’m afraid it wasn’t enough to pull me in. There really is an interesting core to the plot, but it’s buried beneath a lot of craft issues. I don’t mean “rules for writing”, I mean writing technique, those things that make the difference between telling a story and storytelling.

Okay, so what does that fancy wordplay mean?

Three main things interfered with the “storytelling”:

Too much repetition

I had a lot of sympathy for Wynter’s situation and the trials she went through…That being said, the descriptions of how she felt repeated endlessly. Variation was desperately needed. The girl’s heart was pounding wildly so much of the time that I began to be concerned about her cardiac condition. Worse though, her fear and rapid pulse started to mean little as I went along because, well, that seemed to be her natural state. This, and she passed out far, FAR too many times. I understand why, but again, I couldn’t worry about it after the fourth time. Maybe I should’ve kept some smelling salts in my pocket for her?

Relationships

Friendships seemed hastily built and the romance suffered from a thick layer of melodrama. I DO love romances, but only when things are properly paced and I feel the bond between them. I didn’t feel it here. Sure, he’s cute, so there’s attraction, but love is another animal. Love needs humor. Trust. Understanding and mutual admiration. These things don’t necessarily need months to take place (Hell, I was in love with my husband within a couple of weeks) but they do need to happen.

Character Arc

For me, this was painfully absent. Wynter started out from a place of weakness and pretty much ended up there. Once more, I understand why, but at a certain point a girl needs to come up with her own plan independent of others. It can be argued that she did this at the end, but it didn’t feel like a decision based on strength, but powerlessness. Again.

Furthermore, what is this story really about? I had trouble answering this here. Authors must continually ask themselves this question, leaving aside all the action and adventure. I know writers who have those words taped up on their computer monitors so they don’t forget where to focus to lens as they write:

What, at its core, is this story about?

Forget the dystopian world. Forget the bad guys looking for Wynter. Forget the disease. Forget the romance/friendships. At its core, what is Wynter’s story about? Is it about finding her place in the world? Is it about learning to be more than what the State dictated her life to be? Is it learning to feel/finding her repressed humanity? There were glimpses of a lot of these, but nothing fully fleshed out, not in my reading experience at least.

The Magical: Wynter’s illness gives her certain abilities, but they come at a cost. This is a great contrast. A lot of books have people of powers/abilities who seemingly use them without consequence. Attaching a price to it, as done here, is way more interesting.

The Mundane: There was too much murmuring, mumbling, whispering, and breathing of dialogue. I started to wonder if the characters were having a seance.

Summary of Thoughts: This book is currently $2.99 on the Kindle, but I feel it needs additional revision work to really clean up a lot of the writing issues and to clarify the central theme of the story. A good content editor could help to do this. It takes so much effort and sacrifice to publish a book that I loathe giving low review scores, but, for the reasons above, I’m afraid this isn’t one I can recommend.

2-out-of-5-stars

Many thanks to author M. A. Phipps for providing a copy of the book to review.

Curious what others thought? Check out Amazon’s reviews here

Want to know more about this author and her work? Explore her website here

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