Thursday, March 27, 2014

"The Infinity Ring"

                I should start off by saying that the book I’m reviewing, The Infinity Ring: A Mutiny in Time honestly didn’t stand a chance.  This book, written by The Maze Runner author James Dashner, is a story about time travel.  A couple months ago, I read All Our Yesterdays, another time travel story with the same save-the-world mentality of The Infinity Ring: A Mutiny in Time.  It was phenomenal: unique and exciting and unpredictable.  This book possesses very few of those qualities, but I think my attitude towards this book has been greatly influenced by the other book I read and loved.

   The Infinity Ring: A Mutiny in Time (Published 2012) is yet another series published by Scholastic (like Boris on the Move and I Survived).  At the beginning of this novel, we are presented with a world that is like ours, but something is just off.  It is the world that we know, but there are distinct differences.  Philadelphia is the nation’s capital, some President named McClellan has his face on Mt. Rushmore, there’s a Benedict Arnold Middle School, and some brothers named Amancio actually discovered America.  Our main characters, Dak and Sera, are geniuses living in this world.  Dak is a history genius who often interrupts people at public functions to give historical facts.  Sera is a science genius who has been studying string theory and quantum mechanics since she was four.

                The world that Dak and Sera are living in is different, but it is by no means benign.  After the prologue introducing us to the main characters, the first chapter is one called “The Only Hope” that introduces us to two people named Brint and Mari.  We learn that, “Time had gone wrong—this is what the Hystorians believed.  And if things were beyond fixing now, there was only one hope left… to go back in time and fix the past instead”(p.5).  With this statement, we are given the central premise of the entire series—time has broken, the world is falling apart, and someone has to go back in time and fix it.  We very soon learn that our “someones” are going to be Dak and Sera.  Dak’s parents are scientists, and he and Sera sneak into their lab.  Sera finds a device that Dak’s parents are working on called The Infinity Ring, discovers it is a time travelling device, and then actually makes it work.  Sera, Dak and his parents go on one trip back in time together, but on their way back to the present, Dak’s parents are lost.  Dak and Sera are captured by the Hystorians who tell them that they need their help to go back in time to fix the past.  Dak, Sera, and an Hystorian named Riq find themselves in Spain in 1492, where they have to somehow fix what went wrong in history.

                Normally my summaries of a book are a paragraph.  I try to keep them short and to the point, encompassing everything in the novel without giving it away.  I realize that on this book, though, the majority of my summary talks about the beginning of the book—the world building that James Dashner does in the present.  By p.87 out of 190, Riq, Dak, and Sera are back in time.  I think this is because that part of the book is just so much better than the rest of it.  When I picked up this book, I thought I would only feel like it was okay.  About 50 pages into it, I found myself really enjoying the world that James Dashner had given us.  In this world, there is a group called the “SQ” that is running everything—the government, the schools.   Think of a kind of Big Brother scenario, where you have to watch what you say and do. We never learn what SQ stands for (my personal guess is Status Quo, but I’m sure I’m wrong), but we do learn about what they do.  On a school field trip, Sera gets annoyed because her teacher is tripping over himself to try and please an SQ official.  She says, “It was ridiculous to her that they should thank the SQ for not closing down a public building.  As if anything they did could make up for the way they bullied the governments of the world.  Not that she should expect her teacher to grow a backbone when even the President of the United States was eating out of the SQ’s hand”(p.16).  We get the feel that the SQ is bad very early in the novel.

                The most unique part about this book is the idea of the Remnants.  Brint gives us our first glimpse when he says in chapter one, “There were also the Remnants.  Every day when Brint when home and looked at the picture that hung above the fireplace—he and his wife sitting by a river, the sun glinting off the water behind them—he felt a disorienting twist in his head and stomach.  A gnawing gap in his mind that made him extremely uncomfortable.  Someone—at least one someone—was missing from that photo”(p.5).  In this world, everyone has Remnants.  For some it is a sense of déjà vu, but for others it is something much deeper.  One day, Sera has a Remnant that forces her to go stand in front of a barn.  She is left with this overwhelming sense that two people, who she knows must be her parents, are supposed to be walking out of that door.

                All these Remnants are because of “Breaks” in history.  “Breaks” are those moments when things go differently than how they were supposed to go, like how Christopher Columbus did not discover America in this story.  We’re explained that time is going like a stream, and that these breaks are like boulders in the stream.  Time can go around these boulders and keep going to the destination it was meant to go, but it has to take a different path.  The Remnants are remainders for how time was supposed to go.  They are glimpses into what was supposed to happen, but what got changed due to the “Breaks.”

                I haven’t talked much about them going back in time because it honestly wasn’t very interesting to me.  Their first job is to fix the “Break” that happened when the Amancio brothers threw Christopher Columbus overboard and discovered America instead.  I was hoping that it would be full of history and the same kind of excitement the first half of the book had, but it was pretty predictable.  I’m sure you can guess now, without even reading the book, how it gets solved.  There is a pretty interesting scene, though, where Dak is somehow able to wield a sword against a grown man.  I’m still trying to visualize that one in my head!  What really frustrates me, though, is the way that the story ended after the boring foray into 1492.  I can’t ruin it here, but let’s just say that it sucked me right back into the story, and I will probably have to read the second one now.

                The Infinity Ring series is like The 39 Clues in that Scholastic has asked different famous authors (Carrie Ryan wrote the second one, and I adored her The Forest of Hands and Teeth sequence) to write the story.  I see some good to this, but I mostly think where it can go disastrously wrong.  From what I can understand, the point of having so many different authors write a series is that you can get each book out very quickly.  The first book came out on August 28, 2012, and the eighth book will be released on July 29 of this year.  All books are still in hardcover edition, unless you order it out of Scholastic.  When you put out a book every few months, you can keep the momentum going.  While one author is finishing up a book, another author can be working on the next one in the series.  I just think, though, that in the end it isn’t going to be worth it.  Every author has a vision for a book, and every author should have their own writing style.  When you’re mixing all these different visions and styles, can you really have a cohesive whole?  Shouldn’t we treat kids like real readers who have to wait an entire year for the next book in a series comes out?  (I’m just joking here.  Years of waiting for books to be released has made me bitter.)  I’m just not convinced that doing this is the best idea.  I can see, though, that if a middle-school reader (and I do feel this book is made for middle schoolers) is in love with this book, it is nice that they only have to wait a few months.  If I had a kid who loved them, I’d be begging Scholastic to put them out more quickly.

                Overall, the book was okay.  It had promise to be better than what it was, and I am definitely going to give Carrie Ryan a chance to impress me with The Infinity Ring: Divide and Conquer.  If I were in middle school, I have a feeling I would think this book was the greatest thing in the world.  Have any of you read the story?  Do you share my same conflicted feelings?  More than anything, I really want to give this story to a kid in middle school and have them review it.   This could possibly the kind of book that is appreciated much more by the intended age than it is the mid-twenties lady who is reviewing it!

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