[SF Signal welcomes the return of guest reviewer Jason Sanford!]
REVIEW SUMMARY: As with the first novel in this series, The Power of Six is derivative and not very original. However, the novel is fast-paced and exciting and is a good gateway novel for readers new to science fiction.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Nine young aliens hide on Earth after the destruction of their world by the evil Mogadorians. Now, though, the aliens are beginning to fight back, both to save themselves and their adopted world.
PROS: A quick, exciting read which should appeal to the same readers who enjoyed I Am Number Four.
CONS: Extremely derivative, with no explanation of the science behind this “science fiction” novel.
BOTTOM LINE: If you’re a long-time reader of science fiction, you will find nothing new here but may still enjoy the ride. But if you need a novel to interest a young person into reading more science fiction, The Power of Six would be a good choice.
So this is what a sputtering multi-media campaign feels like.
Last year’s I Am Number Four, the first book in the Lorien Legacies series masterminded by literati gadfly James Frey, was a decent science fiction book aimed at genre newcomers. As I remarked at the time, no matter how irritating Frey can be, he earned points in my book by giving the science fiction field a sorely needed entry-level novel aimed at young people. For years science fiction has ignored the need for novels like this to bring new readers into our genre (as opposed to the fantasy genre, where half the books target young readers). It was my hope that I Am Number Four would succeed at bringing new people to the universe of written SF.
But then came the film version of I Am Number Four, released barely six months after the book’s debut. Instead of giving the series time to build an audience in the same manner as successful fantasies like the Harry Potter series, the film reeked of cynicism and fakery. My son, who loved the novel —please note, he’s one of those new readers SF should be going after—hated the movie. That was the first time he ever told me the film was worse than the book.
Audiences responded in kind. While the film version of I Am Number Four did decent business, it wasn’t the blockbuster Hollywood clearly hoped for. Plans for future films in the series suddenly were placed on hold.
Now we have the release of The Power of Six, the second book in the Lorien Legacies series. Jointly written by Frey and Jobie Hughes under the pseudonym of Pittacus Lore, the novel continues the tale of nine young aliens called Loriens who hide on Earth after the destruction of their world by the evil Mogadorians. Three of the Loriens have already been killed and the Mogadorians are now after Number Four, who like all his fellow aliens is protected by what seem like superpowers.
The Power of Six picks up right where the previous novel left off, with Number Four on the run alongside his human friend Sam and fellow alien Six. They are pursued by both the Mogadorians and the human authorities, who wrongly believe Four and his friends are terrorists.
Their story alternates with that of Number Seven, who is living as an orphan in a convent in Spain. Seven’s protector has given up on her duty, leaving Seven to fend for herself against the orphanage’s cruel nuns. But Seven isn’t passively waiting for the Mogadorians to locate and kill her. Instead, she wants to seek out her fellow Loriens so they can fight together.
As with the first novel, The Power of Six will offer little to long-time lovers of science fiction. The science behind this novel is non-existent, with no explanations for how the aliens’ superpowers and new-agey technology works, or how their spaceships cross the vast reaches of space so quickly. However, that’s almost beside the point. The story is full of action and excitement with characters readers relate to—key requirements for a novel aimed at young people.
Aside from the derivative content, my only other serious complaint is that The Power of Six awkwardly alternates between different viewpoint characters. In a third-person novel, this is rarely a big issue. However, The Power of Six is told in the first person and these POV shifts take some getting used to. The fact that the publisher decided to use different fonts to illustrate these shifts indicates I wasn’t the only person with concerns around this technical flaw.
But despite these complaints, The Power of Six is a fun, quick read. And my son, who is still within the target audience for this series, loved this novel as much as the first one. He’s already asking when the third book will be released.
Yes, James Frey is exploitative, however, he also had a good idea in creating this science fiction series for young people. My only hope is the powers-that-be suspend the straight-to-film campaign around this series long enough for these novels to capture the readers they deserves. So Hollywood, take note: We really don’t want to see a film version of The Power of Six anytime soon.