by Michael Buckley
Series: Undertow #1
Published by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction
Sixteen-year-old Lyric Walker’s life is forever changed when she witnesses the arrival of 30,000 Alpha, a five-nation race of ocean-dwelling warriors, on her beach in Coney Island. The world’s initial wonder and awe over the Alpha quickly turns ugly and paranoid and violent, and Lyric’s small town transforms into a military zone with humans on one side and Alpha on the other. When Lyric is recruited to help the crown prince, a boy named Fathom, assimilate, she begins to fall for him. But their love is a dangerous one, and there are forces on both sides working to keep them apart. Only, what if the Alpha are not actually the enemy? What if they are in fact humanity’s only hope of survival? Because the real enemy is coming. And it’s more terrifying than anything the world has ever seen.
Between the awesome cover and the synopsis of Undertow by Michael Buckley, I knew that I had to try this young adult science-fiction fantasy. The first in the Undertow trilogy Buckley did an excellent job of drawing me in and introducing an ocean-dwelling race that has invaded the shores of Coney Island. From prejudice to romance and despite some issues I quickly became caught up in this descriptive, fast-paced tale.
- The concept for Undertow is intriguing. Much of the Earth’s ocean has yet to be explored and we are constantly finding new species so the idea of a five-nation race of ocean dwelling warriors appealed to the geeky side of me. These beings known as Alpha’s have invaded the shores of Coney Island. As you can imagine this has caused the American nation to respond from quarantined areas to negotiations. Tensions are high; inhabitants of the area have fled or are dealing with a strong military presence.
- Through our protagonist Lyric Walker, a sixteen-year-old native of Coney Island, the story unfolds. She shares events, her experiences and eventual her interaction with Fathom, the crown prince of the Alpha’s. Secondary characters from friends to the Alphas added interest fleshed out the world and created side stories giving the tale a well-rounded feel. Lyric’s family has a secret and that secret forces her to corporate with authorities. This has her meeting the young prince Fathom and helping him learn the culture and assimilate to his new surroundings. Their interaction was fascinating as we see two different cultures interact. A romance of the forbidden variety develops.
- The world building from the description of the Alphas to their hierarchy and religion captivated me even as I had questions. While we learn things through Lyric’s experiences, Buckley’s descriptive writing style brought the story to life. I loved that we experienced it through showing. We did not get heavy info dumps although the Alphas have been in Coney Island on the shore for three years while the government heads talked. The authorities decided to send a select group of Alpha children to high school. It was suspenseful and action packed with twists and turns.
- Buckley really addresses prejudices and paranoia from the tension and unrest in citizens to the military and media dynamics. He highlights both sides of the equation allowing us to experience both the Alpha side of things and the human one. We see those who want to understand and others who want them destroyed. Culture misunderstands are at the forefront and allow the readers to ponder what his or her own reactions would be.
- The romance while in the background was to be me unnecessary and under developed. Lyric has a human friend whom she hooks up with and it did nothing to enhance the story or character. Enter Fathom who looks more human than the others and she gets butterflies. Ugh. I know some folks need a romance, and maybe this thread will excite you but it lacked believability for me.
- I wanted more information about the original Alphas. I would love a prequel or novella about the twenty Alphas who came to shore and assimilated before the invasion. I will not say more because well, “spoilers darling” but this line of the story really had me curious.
- Bex is Lyric’s best friend and her storyline has depth and sadly a great big hole in it. She disappears for days and darn it, I want to know what the happened.
- I liked being in the dark and learning about the world through Lyric but I think I would have preferred Undertow more if it had been the second book in this trilogy with the first novel focusing on the twenty and actual invasion. Am I making sense? For me it would have strengthened the story and given it more meat.
Undertow was a fun read, but aspects and questions have me wanting more. This may be better explored from your library. I will be curious to see what Raging Sea the next book brings.
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