Title: The Enemy Within
Author: Scott Burn
Genre: Fiction, YA, science fiction
Where I got the book: I received a free e-copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.
My rating: ★★★☆☆
Summary: 17-year old Max suffers from agonizing apocalyptic visions and is about to commit suicide when he is saved and admitted to a psychiatric institution. It’s obvious there’s something exceptional about him, and it soon turns out that the hallucinations aren’t only in his head. At the same time, three others who share the same abilities as Max are now searching for him – but so is a covert military group. Not knowing who to trust makes it hard for Max to choose sides, but one thing soon becomes clear: it’s not just his fate alone that lies in his hands.
“When he could finally see around him, he was in the city of ashes. Once towering spindles lay collapsed in clouds of ash and smoke. He was the last witness to a great civilization’s end – and the last chance that they might live on.”
– The Enemy Within, Scott Burn
This is a quick, fast-paced, entertaining read; a blend of sci-fi and dystopian YA. Most of the main characters are resourceful and interesting, it has lots of action going down with almost each turn of the page, and there also are some descriptions of scenery and situations in here that grab your attention.
I like how this book is structured. The writing is easy to follow and for the first half or so the story has great pacing. A lot of thought, not to mention care, has gone into building Max as a solid main character, and the same applies for the world he exists in. It didn’t take long for me to get hooked and to sympathize with Max, there’s a good personality to him and a certain depth to the story, and I enjoyed this aspect. The visions he suffers from are interesting and in the beginning not much is revealed as to what the reasons behind them are, something I quite like. It keeps the reader guessing without the risk of it all becoming so vague you lose interest, and this makes you want to continue turning the page. I think that most of the elements in the book’s concept are familiar and rather typical – a troubled teenage character, the involvement of an institution and a military branch, a cat-and-mouse chase, two sides that are morally grey and hard to fully trust, supernatural powers, and an ambiguous alien life form. These elements together make the book read a bit like a movie sometimes. At the same time there’s a nice spin to it all that I appreciate, and while there are some things in here that are definitely clichéd, it’s hard to predict which turn the plot itself is actually going to take. There aren’t any blatant plot holes and all in all this is a story that comes together well.
However, I do think that the story was rushing more and more the closer we got to the end – I kept checking the page count thinking there weren’t enough pages left to actually tie this up in a way that would be satisfactory. I felt like I was reading really fast, that I was running out of time, but not in a particularly good way. I don’t want to spoil anything, but there were aspects of the concluding scenes I felt could have been fleshed out more to provide a better and more cohesive picture for the reader. Another thing I was a bit disappointed in is the fact that there’s really only one female main character, who also remains the only significant female character in the book’s entire character gallery, and her role and her fate isn’t one that I’m particularly impressed with. Sadly, many books and other media as well tend to do this. I just think there are so many possibilities for making her something more than a romantic interest, which, in the end, is really all I got out of the female main in this case. Maybe I completely missed something, but that’s what I felt. Personally, I’m also undecided on how much I like the ending – I don’t think it’s a bad one but I was starting to entertain the possibility of something like it happening before it actually did, and it seemed a bit too easy to me so I wasn’t a big fan. I have to say though, that it’s both a very conclusive ending and an ending that opens up for continuation, so I guess it’s great when you see it that way, but I think in combination with everything happening so fast in the last few pages it all came upon me rather abruptly.
Overall this was enjoyable enough, but I would have loved it if I had found the last half as good as the first. It’s still a quick and entertaining read that also has some depth to it, and it might be of interest to fans of sci-fi/dystopian YA.