This book was sent to me by the publisher, Allen & Unwin, at no cost. It’s available now; RRP $19.99.
When I read the first book in this series, Zeroes, I was a bit underwhelmed. I felt like it didn’t fully deliver on its promises – not quite dramatic enough, somehow, or heroic, or problematic. I didn’t hate it… I was just a bit disappointed. So while I was very excited to receive the sequel to review, I experienced some trepidation.
And then I picked it up. And then I couldn’t put it down. And I read the entire thing in an afternoon… and, ahem, evening; it’s been a while since I read past my bedtime in order to finish a book.
Folks, the sequel is better than the first. Shocking, I know.
While the first book was on the darker side of superhero stories, this takes a much grimmer view of the world, of powers, and of consequences. While the teens must face threats in Zeroes, the threat here is far more significant, which ratcheted the tension way up. And while there were consequences, many of them horrific, in the first, things are taken to a far more significant level here. Basically it’s all taken to a higher degree and instead of becoming ridiculous and shouty, the story works and I cared far more about the characters and even the town than when reading the first book.
(Some spoilers for Zeroes ahead.)
As in Zeroes, the story is written from multiple perspectives – those of the Zeroes themselves. There’s not equal airtime; Anon and Mob and Flicker got far more time than Bellwether (or at least that’s how it felt), with Crash and Scam also featuring a fair bit. I really enjoyed this multiplicity; it basically worked last time, but this time it felt smoother and more streamlined. The characters themselves also felt more developed and lived-in; that could partly be my familiarity with them, but I think it’s also that the authors are more familiar with how they think and are motivated and that comes through in the writing. I definitely cared more about the characters this time around; Scam was much more relatable, for instance. I still don’t like Bellwether but he was mostly there through other people’s words, so he was bearable. There’s a bit less about their families, but what is there is frequently highly charged (in a good way) and added greatly to the depth of the characters and the tension of the narrative.
In terms of plot, this time the enemy is another powered person. They’re deliberately and consciously using their power to disrupt the world, and it’s frightening and horrible and sickening. Like I said, Zeroes went to some dark places, but Swarm has that beat hands down. Not just physically, although there is some gruesome stuff, but psychologically. Some of the characters really get screwed around, and it was completely absorbing to see how they would deal with (or not) the problems confronting them.
I also enjoyed the way this book explored the Zeroes’ powers a bit more – although if anything frustrated me, it was exactly that. There’s suggestion of how their powers might change, but it’s not delved into even when it’s used; I presume this exploration will happen in later books. I look forward to that.
This book packs a punch. Don’t think that anyone is safe. Don’t think that this is a completely happily-ever-after. Don’t think you won’t want another book in the series. OMG I need the next book in this series.