Wednesday, 2 November 2011

POD by Stephen Wallenfels

Earth has been invaded – nothing will be the same. Everything was normal on the day it started, until metallic spheres began to appear in the sky, and people on the street disappeared in a terrifying beam of light. The PODs continue their menacing existence in the sky, and the only survivors are those hiding in buildings, including Megs in California and Josh in Washington. Josh’s food supplies are running out, along with his unsteady relationship with his father, whilst Megs is frightened and alone, afraid that the dangerous men from the hotel next door will find her and throw her out into the street, or worse...

I really liked the short, alternating chapters – they really pull you in to the story and leave you eager to find out what has happened to the respective character, as most finish on a shocking moment or a cliffhanger. POD has an excellent pace, and is very well told by Wallenfels; the atmosphere he creates is so realistic and tense, that you find yourself genuinely worrying that our two protagonists, Megs and Josh, will come to harm or fall victim to the PODs (‘Pearls of Death’), who cause anyone who is not in the safety of a building to disappear in a deadly beam.

Both Megs and Josh have flaws (some purposeful, like Josh being a typical teenage boy – lazy, rash and selfish; others not so much, like Megs acting way above her age of twelve – it would have been much better if she were also fifteen), which generally makes them realistic characters, and contributes to how much the reader likes them and feels for them.

 I don’t like cover – I find it far too plain and simple for what it is, and I think it would put a lot of not-very-curious people off reading POD, which is a bit gruesome at times and deals with more adult themes, like cannibalism and suicide, so it’s not really suitable for younger readers. At first, I didn’t like the present tense POD is written in, as I’m not much of a fan because it’s rarely done right, but by the end I felt immersed in the action, although it was only within the last few chapters that I felt this.

POD reminded me of the Gone series at times, which, I hasten to add is a high complement, and I don’t mean that the stories are similar at all, but they both grip you in the same way, and make you genuinely fear for characters you come to care about. I liked the way the two protagonists are linked by the end, because at the start you are wondering why Wallenfels is choosing to focus on them, and it leaves you a bit confused. There were some shocking moments, but they propel you to keep reading to see their effect on particular characters, and make for more gripping reading.

I don’t read much of the Sci-Fi genre, so I don’t know if POD is completely original (though it feels very 'War of the Worlds-esque'), or how it compares, but although I have read similar dystopian tales, I found POD a unique and gripping read, which I highly recommend, even if POD isn’t your usual type of read, and I hope the sequel is published soon as I'm eager to see where the story will head.

[SYNOPSIS: PODs - strange alien spheres hover menacingly in the sky, zapping anyone who ventures outside.

Will is 15 and stuck in his house with his OCD dad. They're running out of food...
Megs is 12, alone and trapped in a multi-storey carpark. The hotel next door is under the control of dangerous security staff, but Megs has something they want, and they'll do anything to get it...
When the aliens invade, the real enemy becomes humanity itself. What would you do to survive?]


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