Thursday, January 16, 2014

Early Review: Phoenix Island by John Dixon

Release Date: January 21, 2014
Publisher: Gallery Books
Source: NetGalley
Author Links: Website | Twitter | Goodreads

The judge told Carl that one day he'd have to decide exactly what kind of person he would become. But on Phoenix Island, the choice will be made for him.
A champion boxer with a sharp hook and a short temper, sixteen-year-old Carl Freeman has been shuffled from foster home to foster home. He can't seem to stay out of trouble, using his fists to defend weaker classmates from bullies. His latest incident sends his opponent to the emergency room, and now the court is sending Carl to the worst place on earth: Phoenix Island.

Classified as a terminal facility, it's the end of the line for delinquents who have no home, no family, and no future. Located somewhere far off the coast of the United States and immune to its laws, the island is a grueling Spartan-style boot camp run by sadistic drill sergeants who show no mercy to their young, orphan trainees. Sentenced to stay until his eighteenth birthday, Carl plans to play by the rules, so he makes friends with his wisecracking bunkmate, Ross, and a mysterious gray-eyed girl named Octavia. But he makes enemies, too, and after a few rough scrapes, he earns himself the nickname "Hollywood" as well as a string of punishments, including a brutal night in the sweatbox. But that's nothing compared to what awaits him in the Chop Shop: a secret government lab where Carl is given something he never dreamed of.

A new life. . . .

A new body. A new brain.

Gifts from the fatherly Old Man, who wants to transform Carl into something he's not sure he wants to become.

For this is no ordinary government project. Phoenix Island is ground zero for the future of combat intelligence.

And for Carl, it's just the beginning. . .

One of the things that drew my interest to this title was that CBS based their new television series, Intelligence, on it before the book was even released. But from what I've seen of the trailers for the show, it has very little to do with the story it was based on. It seems to me as though they just took one tiny idea out of the book, and came up with something entirely different. I'm not saying that to be condescending, just to warn you that you won't be reading a CIA/spy thriller if you decide to give this book a try. I should also mention that even though I knew the book was the basis for a show, I had never actually seen the trailers for the show prior to reading the book. It wasn't until after I finished that I even bothered to look the show up. I think it worked well for me not to have any expectations, because I really enjoyed Phoenix Island for what it was.

For the majority of the book, there isn't any sci-fi or futuristic tech stuff. In fact, that kind of thing doesn't even come into play until the book is almost over.
Nope. For the vast majority of the book, the story is mostly about Carl trying to survive this hellish boot-camp for kids. All of the kids who have been sent there are troubled, and none of them have family that will bother to check up on them. So the fact that this place is waaay off the grid goes unnoticed by the rest of the world.

But Carl isn't really a bad kid. He's definitely got some issues controlling his anger, though. He landed in the facility because he put several kids in the hospital...and it wasn't the first time. But every time he's snapped and gone all Crazy-Fist on someone, it's because they were bullying someone weaker. 
Ok, violence isn't the answer, but how can you not root for a kid who kicks the crap out of bullies? 

However, just because Carl isn't a junior psychopath doesn't mean that all of the kids at Phoenix Island are just misunderstood. Some of them are run-of-the-mill delinquents, and some of them are just plain scary
Creepy kids are my own personal nightmare. Brrrr! 
I can't be the only one out there who feels that way, right?

At first, Carl assumes that although this place is awful, the instructors won't let anything get out of hand. But as the reality of the place starts to sink in, he begins to have his doubts. Then he finds a diary that was hidden away by another kid who came to Phoenix Island before him, and the entries shock him to the core. Phoenix Island was supposed to be a chance for him to wipe the slate clean and start over again. Except it stats to look like that's not going to be a possibility. In fact, it looks like he'll be lucky to get out of there at all.

If you were hoping for a book about super-spies, you're going to be disappointed. But if you're looking for a dark and gritty read about teenagers in a Lord of the Flies situation, then you're going to love this one!


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