Genius: The Game by Leopoldo Gout
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I picked this book up because I recognized the name of one of James Patterson's many collaborators - who, most recently, has been working on the CBS adaptation of Zoo. Is this Gout's first solo work? It's the first I know of, anyway.
The intro feels like classic Max Ride, being presented in the form of a letter demanding your attention, and then we jump into the story itself. It alternates between three very diverse POVs of talented but underprivileged teenagers all over the world. We get the Mexican-American hacker Rex, who's looking for his missing brother, then Tunde, a Nigerian boy whose engineering knowledge is being exploited by a corrupt general, and Painted Wolf, the alias of punky Chinese hacktivist Cai. (From her, I got a distinct "teenage version of Skye from Agents of SHIELD" vibe.) The book itself is also peppered with unusual graphic illustrations to help you tell which POV you're on - Rex's POV has these weird little molecular things, Tunde's POV is loaded with graffiti on the edges and hand-drawn illustrations of his designs, and Cai's POV has these square target things on each page, certain words highlighted in a way that makes them look like printing glitches, and occasionally, very blurry video screenshots like Person of Interest.
Visually, the book is pretty cool, a hybrid of the graffiti designs from the covers of Olivia Samms' Sketchy series (which, if I remember, was also recommended by James Patterson) and the rule-breaking use of illustrations as part of the text like in Illuminae. Unfortunately, visually stunning though the book was, it did make it hard to read sometimes, particularly in Tunde's chapters, where the graffiti often distracts from the actual story. And as for the actual story, the main plot is pretty predictable, and the three narrators' backstories aren't all equally interesting. Cai, in particular, is hard to get invested in, mostly because her primary persona is a notorious mask - although given how boring her home life seems to be otherwise, that's no surprise. Tunde and Rex, however, you can't help but root for. Especially Rex, who really needs to find his brother, yesterday.
This book is quite clearly just the first in a series, and while I wasn't super-duper-thrilled with it, I'll be keeping an eye out for the sequel. And in the meantime, this reminds me, I need to get my hands on John Sandford's third Singular Menace book sooner rather than later.
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