Review of THE FEARLESS by EMMA PASS
(based on a review copy)
It seems like a good thing when someone invents a drug that supposedly cures PTSD, but then come the side affects. Those given the drug not only feel no fear, they feel…nothing. And it doesn’t take long for these weaponized humans to take over the world, turning everyone in their path into more Fearless. Cass manages to flee with her family to an island prepped as an escape route, but a few years later a Fearless takes her little brother Jori. He’s all she has left and Cass will do whatever it takes to get him back. While the premise of this book is certainly an overdone trend (yes, another post-apocalyptic survival story and the ‘drug gone wrong’ angle isn’t new either), the author executes her specific story so well that I would encourage you to read this one anyway.
I enjoyed this book from the start and found myself riveted by the second half. It’s a quick read with short chapters switching between three character perspectives: Cass, Myo (a boy who came to the island around the same time Jori was kidnapped), and Sol (Cass’s childhood friend turned bitter by unrequited feelings for Cass). There’s absolutely no boring parts in this book.
Cass is a tough chick without being cliché. Her life has taught her to bottle her emotions, at least until she’s handled a situation, and she’s certainly above average in the fitness category. That being said, she meets people on her search who make her feel like a weakling, all her training on a tiny island incomparable to the horrors they’ve had to survive. She’s likably single minded: Jori is the center of her shrinking world. Minor spoilers in the rest of this paragraph. The Fearless caught Cass’s father when they first fled and her mother killed herself not long after they settled on the island. Life on Hope island is a small flicker of what it used to be, focused more around survival than any kind of happiness. As long as Cass has Jori, though, everything else feels worthwhile. She won’t let anything steer her away from protecting him, or in this case saving him.
I found the perspective shifts confusing, mostly because the author uses first person for everyone’s perspective. A name at the start of the chapter tells you whose perspective we’re in, but it’s easy to forget along the way when it’s all first person.
The ending also cuts off more abruptly than I wanted. I can’t tell if this is intended as a standalone or the first in the series, but regardless I would have liked a little more denouement.
I had very mixed feelings on Sol. Sometimes I felt his character seemed too flat. From the first chapter in his perspective, he’s not a likeable person and as we keep experiencing his viewpoint he’s a clear villain, close to evil. I kept waiting for more layers or development to his character, but what you see if what you get with Sol. That being said, I also argued with myself that his particular brand of “evil” is actually quite realistic and believable. Maybe my issue is actually more with the book following a bad guy. The typical style is to follow the hero. George R.R. Martin subverts this in his popular A Song of Ice and Fire series, but that aside there’s a reason we prefer to follow the hero. We can relate more. We care more. My interest sometimes waned when in Sol’s perspective, because I found little redeeming to him and couldn’t see other sides to his personality.
My few criticisms aside, I enjoyed this book beginning to end and certainly wouldn’t mind to discover it’s the first in a series. I do know I’ll likely be reading Pass’s debut novel ACID soon and keeping on the lookout for her next publication.