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Monday, July 6, 2015

Review: The Six by Mark Alpert


Title: The Six
Author: Mark Alpert
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Pub. Date: July 7, 2015
Genre: Young Adult
Rec. Age Level: 12+
Pages: 268
More by this author: Various adult titles

To save humanity, they must give up their own.

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.
Finally - finally - I've found a YA scifi novel with plenty of boy appeal that's really well written with well-developed characters! I've picked up quite a few of this year's releases that looked promising, then failed to hold my interest or had ridiculous dialogue, descriptions, etc. Mark Alpert's The Six is exactly what I've been searching for!
I found the premise of The Six unique and engaging. The government has created an artificial intelligence that is extremely smart and adaptive. Underestimating the AI's intelligence and abilities, it is able to escape its cage. Now out in the real world, the AI, Sigma, is wreaking havoc - taking over entire countries and killing without mercy. The main character, Adam, is the son of the AI's main engineer. Adam and his father are quite close, as Adam's father is his main caretaker... Adam has muscular dystrophy; while is mind is incredibly sharp, his body is a prison. His future is rather bleak until the government offers him an unimaginable alternative: become a robot. So Adam and a group of five other teens with debilitating diseases undergo a risky new procedure that transfers their consciousnesses into the shells of weaponized robots. Their task? Defeat Sigma.

There are so many interesting ideas at play within The Six. One of the strongest is the question of what it means to be human. Adam's mother begs him not to undergo the procedure, arguing that he will no longer be human - will no longer be her son - if he is no longer connected to his body. Adam disagrees, believing that it is his thoughts and beliefs that make him who he is and that he won't be losing those things. After Adam undergoes the procedure, things become much more complicated when unforeseen consequences join the mix.

The villain, Sigma, is also interesting. After all, Sigma is an AI, created by humans and programmed to continually evolve. Sigma is doing exactly what it was created to do, but with consequences that hadn't been considered. Sigma sometimes feels incredibly evil, but can a computer truly be evil? Truly want to harm and hurt?

In addition to presenting readers with a number of engaging questions and ideas, The Six has plenty of action, engaging friendships, burgeoning romance, and dangerous rivalries. Alpert's YA offering hits all the right notes.

Highly recommended.


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