Must Read Sci-Fi: Burn Out by Kristi Helvig

Burn OutBefore I get into how much I like this book, I have to thank author Kelsey Ketch for the recommendation. I sincerely appreciate the heads up, and she was right: this book is great!
Like all good Science Fiction, Burn Out is innovative, entertaining, fast paced, and unpredictable. The action scenes are vividly written, the advanced technology is realistic, and the plot is captivating.  Kudos to Ms. Helvig on a job very well done.  Her first novel deserves all the praise it has received since its release last month.

Here’s the official blurb: A futuristic blend of Beth Revis’s Across the Universe and Lenore Appelhans’s Level 2, Burn Out will satisfy the growing desire for science fiction with a thrilling story of survival, intrigue, and adventure.

Most people want to save the world; seventeen-year-old Tora Reynolds just wants to get the hell off of it. One of the last survivors in Earth’s final years, Tora yearns to escape the wasteland her planet has become after the sun turns “red giant,” but discovers her fellow survivors are even more deadly than the hostile environment.

Holed up in an underground shelter, Tora is alone–her brilliant scientist father murdered, her mother and sister burned to death. She dreams of living on a planet with oceans, plants, and animals. Unfortunately, the oceans dried out ages ago, the only plants are giant cacti with deadly spines, and her pet, Trigger, is a gun–one of the bio-energetic weapons her father created for the government before his conscience kicked in.

When family friend, Markus, arrives with mercenaries to take the weapons by force, Tora’s fury turns to fear when government ships descend in an attempt to kill them all. She forges an unlikely alliance with Markus and his rag-tag group of raiders, including a smart but quiet soldier named James. Tora must quickly figure out who she can trust, as she must choose between saving herself by giving up the guns or honoring her father’s request to save humanity from the most lethal weapons in existence.

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I really like Tora’s character – she is resilient and brave and smart and honest.  She’s also grieving and vulnerable and confused and flawed.  She’s taking life one day at a time when Markus and Co. descend upon her home.  Her dismal future takes a dangerous turn as she is forced to join their quest for revenge.  After years of solitude, she has to interact with the other survivors – but is it really an united front or just every man for himself?  Some characters you love to hate and some you hope are better than they appear on paper.    As a reader, it was gripping to never really know who Tora could trust.  The surprises are exciting and frustrating; stolen moments expose just as much as betrayals.

4halfThe world building is, in my opinion, stellar.  In real life, out sun is scheduled to become a “red giant sun” about a billion years from now.  In Burn Out, the author depicts Earth after this event occurs way, way ahead of schedule (in 300 years).  All plant and animal life dies from extreme temperatures and dehydration.  Heat-resistant technology and global water conservation prolonged human life, but when we meet Tora, we see it is not much of an existence.  The futuristic methods of avoiding sun exposure and forcing water molecules from the atmosphere are very interesting, and the biometric security systems are a realistic solution to protecting property in this advanced, yet desolate, world.  There is a watch-type gadget called an Infinity that links the wearer to the GlobalNet, suits made out of fabric that can mend itself and the coolest dog leash ever. Any fans of Sci-Fi will appreciate the imaginative, yet plausible inventions in Burn Out.  And any fans of YA fiction will appreciate the original plot and engaging storytelling.

I was seriously impressed a debut novel could be so full of creative concepts, gripping action and jaw dropping surprises.   As I read the story, I was half hoping it was a series and half hoping it was a stand alone story so I could know how it ended!  Since I would have been happy either way, I was excited to get to the end of the book and realize a sequel must be in the works.     -kris

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