I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Katherine Tegen Books and Edelweiss for the ARC!
When I heard Michael Grant was writing a new book set in the Gone universe, four years after the final, epic battle in Light, my emotions ranged from wild elation, to nervous anticipation, to desperate need, and back again. The Gone books have a special place in my heart and on my bookshelf, ranking among my favorite and most frequently read series. For that reason, I knew that Monster could either be an absolute joy or a crushing disappointment, depending on the execution.
Now that I’ve had an opportunity to read Monster, I would equate the experience to gulping a glass of water after months of walking in a desert: while it didn’t fully quench my “thirst” for more of the Gone characters and their trials and tribulations in the FAYZ, it was still a hell of a relief to be back in that familiar world.
If you, like me, are a rabid fan of the Gone series but are somewhat nervous about whether you’ll like Monster, I would definitely recommend giving it a go. That said, below are:
4 Things You Should Know Going Into This Book:
1) It’s more of a spin-off than a continuation of the original series.
One thing you need to be aware of is that Monster has a very different vibe than the six “original” books in the Gone series. The story picks up four years after the events of Light, when bits of the same outer-space material that the gaiaphage was made of begin falling to Earth. Governments, scientists, civilians, terrorist groups and others race to claim pieces of the space rock, hoping to be granted the same epic powers that the kids in Perdido Beach had acquired four years earlier. Little do these power-seekers know that although the rock will transform them, it will do so in new and terrible ways.
Everything takes place on a much grander scale than in the other Gone books. The powers themselves are crazier and far more destructive, almost to the point where they’re just too much. Sam, Caine, and the other mutants from the original novels, despite having special abilities, were always recognizably human. They had human flaws, vulnerabilities, weaknesses, etc., and this made the triumphs all the more spectacular and the failures all the more distressing. In contrast, the mutants in Monster are transformed to the point of being more like creatures than people. They’re stronger, faster, more dangerous, and less vulnerable, and it robs the characters of some of their human “potency” as a result.
It’s weird, too, to see adult characters in Monster. Part of what I loved about Gone was that the FAYZ was its own little world, isolated from the rest of the planet. This brought unique challenges, such as food shortages, weird plagues, and a breakdown of social norms, and it was up to children and teenagers to solve the problems, fight the battles, etc. In Monster, that’s no longer the case. The events of the book play out on a global scale, with involvement from militaries and governments. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I was admittedly wistful for the FAYZ and the “you’re on your own, you poor suckers” aspect.
2) Monster focuses on a brand new cast of characters.
This is important: if you are expecting a reunion of the entire gang from Light, you are going to be disappointed. That’s not to say there aren’t a lot of fantastic appearances from beloved characters – I’ll get to that in a minute – but the only main character who’s a carry-over from the first six books is Dekka Talent. While Dekka wasn’t my favorite character in Gone, I’d always liked her and was happy to have at least one familiar face among Monster’s protagonists. She’s the same awesome, sassy Dekka I knew and loved from before, which was a comfort and a lot of fun.
Unfortunately, I can’t say I was a huge fan of any of the new characters in Monster. My biggest challenge was Shade Darby, who plays a large role in the story. She’s driven, manipulative, and determined, with a sharp intellect and a will of iron. Although she’s a complex and interesting person, there’s something about her that just doesn’t work for me. I can’t put my finger on exactly what rubs me the wrong way about her, but I’m hopeful that she’ll grow on me as the series progresses. After all, Sam and Caine, my two favorite characters in Gone, came a long way over the course of the books as far as character development is concerned.
“[Shade] was aware that she had a tendency to analyze people with the intensity and the emotional distance of a scientist counting bacteria on a slide.”
3) There are plenty of references to, and cameos from, the “old” characters.
I realize that so far, my comments may not sound like a ringing endorsement for this novel. However, I really did have a great time reading Monster, and this is 100% due to the wealth of references to the previous books in the series. Even though Dekka is the only person from those stories who I would count as a main character in Monster, many other characters from Gone make an appearance. These moments had me gasping in shock at times and jumping around like a joyful lunatic at others. [BEGIN SPOILER] The last line of the book in particular had me squealing in absolute glee. [END SPOILER]
You get glimpses of where some of the survivors of the FAYZ have ended up, with hints about who’s thriving, who’s had a breakdown, who’s developed a substance addiction, and so on. It’s sort of like those “where are they now?” celebrity specials that are occasionally on TV.
“‘Among survivors of the Perdido Beach Anomaly who did not have any mutations, thirty-six percent have had serious psychological or behavioral problems. Among those with major powers? The number is closer to ninety percent.’”
In a way, the survivors are a bit like celebrities. They’re famous – or infamous, in a few cases – and I found myself grinning at some of the references. There’s a fabulous scene where a woman scornfully derides Dekka for being known only as “Sam Temple’s strong right arm,” to which Dekka responds:
“‘Every single person…every single one…who came out of that hellhole alive is alive because of him. Sam Temple’s strong right arm? You can chisel those words on my tombstone, lady, and I’ll be a proud and happy corpse.”
4) Monster is only the beginning.
In addition to Monster, two more Gone novels – Villain and Hero – are in the works. I mention this because I expect the spin-off series to improve as it goes. There’s a LOT going on in Monster, to the point where it feels a bit disjointed at times. There are moments when the sheer number of pieces in this “puzzle” make it hard to see how they might come together to form a comprehensible picture; however, I’m willing to be patient and wait for the next two books to complete the image. Michael Grant laid the story’s foundation and began assembling his cast of characters in Monster, and I anticipate that once he starts building on this further the series will improve with each installment.
About the Book
Author: Michael Grant
In the stunning follow-up to the globally bestselling Gone series, Michael Grant continues the story of the teens who morph into superheroes—and supermonsters—when they ingest an alien virus.
Four years after the events of the FAYZ, new meteorites are hitting Earth, and the whole world is exposed to a strange alien virus that gives humans unique superpowers.
As some teens become heroes and others become dangerously out of control with their new powers, the world will become more terrifying than the FAYZ—and only a monstrous battle between good and evil can save them.