Review: Explorer X-Alpha by L.M. Preston

Explorer X-Alpha by L.M. Preston
L.M. Preston's website here // $14.99 from {amazon}

Publisher: Phenomenal One Press (February 7, 2010)
Paperback: 368 pages
Summary: from {goodreads}
For most kids, a trip to space camp is the trip of a lifetime for Aadi it was life altering. After receiving a camp immunization needed for travel to Mars, Aadi finds that the immunization is the catalyst of an insidious experiment. He realizes what is happening too late for a change of fate. The full experiment is set in motion when he and his co-pilot, Eirena, crash in a distant galaxy called Shrenas, where they change and realize the full extent of their power. This turn of events forces him to grow up quickly, accept his change, and to decide to save a world, or to do what he was trained to do dominate it. His power is coveted by the warring leaders of Shrenas, and he is forced to choose sides a decision that may prove just how much humanity he has left.


My Thoughts: Explorer X-Alpha is another middle grade book, though I find myself questioning that grouping with all the violence that took place. A lot of blood, punching, torturing, and simply fighting overall though, thankfully, no guts. Because of that, I'd recommend this book to either preteens or mostly boys that fall into the claimed range of ages 9-12.

Anyways, I always start off with negatives, and what irritated me the most while reading was the writing, mainly the dialogue. I have to give props for LM Preston for trying to write like a teenager, but due to the lack of apostrophes and strange wording, the dialogue came off awkward and forced; it's the kind of dialogue where it feels like the character is saying a certain line because he should as a (blank) stuck in (blank) situation. It felt weird to say the least. However, the dialogue didn't completely turn me off the book, but it did make me feel a disconnect when reading, especially a disconnect with the characters. The characters were an area of not exactly annoyance but definitely disappointment. The girls were always characterized as ready to kick some male butt, but beyond that? Nothing. Technically, most of the characters had different defining characteristics, like headstrong vs. egotistic, but I really didn't see a "personality," as in any difference internally. I felt like the characters were a blend of "teenager essence" (whatever that is) with a sprinkling of different spices for each one. Mix it all up, and what do you get? A spunky teenager! That being said, the characters were, without a doubt, independent and strong, just the way I like them.

Last negative point, though not a strong one, was that sometimes everything seemed to work out too perfectly. Just when something bad was going to happen - wa-lah! Extremely lucky coincidence combined with a bit of skill, and Aadi makes it out smoothly; in fact, I don't recall any situation where I seriously doubted Aadi was going to come out alive and usually the better from his experience.

Now, moving on to the positives and what really redeemed this book for me: the plot and setting. It's been a very long time since I've read some science fiction, and I forgot how vivid and unique the settings can be. The first 2/3 seemed like a lot of set-up and development and, frankly, left me a little bored. However, the last third really kicked some major, major alien butt. It was a lot of new information to take in, but it definitely kept me on the edge of my seat. The characters change drastically, there's a completely new setting, and the pieces finally snapped together to help me understand the bigger picture. I only wish that the realization could have come sooner, and I could read more about their adventure rather than wait for the sequel. 

Romance: Sort of there. Err, there's a little bit of romance, some envious looks and sly glares.
Cover: 2.0 -- Personally I don't like it very much; it's a little too colorful for my taste. It has cool drawings though. 
Writing: 2.5
Characters: 2.0
Plot: 3.5  

Bottom Line: I like Explorer X-Alpha's idea and where LM Preston is going with it, though I'm not a huge fan of the characters or writing. I'm very picky about writing and characters though, practically my two most important aspects when reading a book, and I'm not the huge fan of science fiction, so if you like sci-fi and aren't quite as picky as me, I would still give this book a go. Overall, Explorer X-Alpha was a solid debut book, and congratulations to LM Preston on her first published work! :)

Source: L.M. Preston, author

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