Rush

Rush

I’ve reviewed quite a few fantasy novels lately. Now for something a little different.

Rush was written by Eve Silver and first published in 2013. It blends horror, paranormal romance and science fiction elements to tell the story of a teenage girl who is dragged into a war against an invading alien race. The novel forms the first part of The Game series and is followed by Push (2014) and Crash (2015).

Miki Jones has been living a half-life. Since her mother’s death, she’s been forced to deal with the fact that her father has turned to alcohol and her depression has driven a wedge between her and her friends. However, everything changes the day that she pushes a little girl out of the path of a speeding truck. The girl lives but Miki is not so fortunate, dying instantly in the crash.

However, Miki doesn’t stay dead. She wakes up in a mysterious lobby in the company of four other teens. Their leader, Jackson, quickly explains to her that she’s been pulled from the brink of death to take part in wargames against the Drau – a beautiful alien species who want nothing more than to wipe out humanity. Every time Miki survives a game she’ll be allowed to return to her normal life until she is summoned again. If she dies in battle, this time she’ll die forever.

Although Miki finds it difficult to comprehend what Jackson has told her she soon sees the truth when she is sent on her first mission,  finding that she possesses instincts and reflexes that she never knew she had. On returning home, she struggles to keep it together. How can she live knowing that everyone she loves is in great danger? It’s not long before she finds comfort in Jackson’s arms but he just keeps pushing her away. What is Jackson’s secret and can Miki really trust him at all?

Rush is one of those novels that I enjoy in theory more than execution. That’s not to say that it’s terrible (I’ll get to the good stuff in a minute), but more that it was just underwhelming on the whole. Last time, in my review of Charlie Bone and the Time Twister, I talked about how novels could often suffer by comparison. In the case of Charlie Bone, it was because a lot of its best qualities were lifted from the Harry Potter series. Rush takes its inspiration from an entirely different medium.

If you follow me on Goodreads, you may have noticed by now that I’m a big comic book fan. This is especially true of manga, which I’ve read since I was in my early teens. I hadn’t got far into Rush when I started noticing similarities between it and Gantz – a horror manga that was very popular in the early 00’s. I don’t mean to say that there is just a passing resemblance between the two works either. Rush’s core concept – people drawn into a deadly battle with aliens after death, the lobby where they gain their weapons, the points system and its ultimate reward, the fact that they are returned to life fully healed after each successful game – was entirely lifted from Gantz.

While I do appreciate that Gantz is now sixteen years old and was never aimed at a teen girl demographic, the similarities were quite jarring. I expect that people who haven’t read Gantz or seen its subsequent anime and live action movie would gain more enjoyment from Rush. However I struggled in this regard. The things that I really loved about this novel’s world-building were not new to me at all. Because of this, Rush lost a lot of its shine.

Beyond this, Rush wasn’t an especially memorable story as it really lacked an overarching plot. Although hints of a bigger picture began to emerge over the last few chapters, for the large part it followed an alternating pattern of battles against the Drau and high school drama. Of the two, I much preferred the combat sequences. These were fast paced and very exciting, each disappointingly short but still maintaining a good level of tension. It was one of those stories where you were never sure how many characters would make it out alive. The Drau were fast and brutal but the main characters were only human. There was a limit to how much punishment they could take before their “health bars” dropped into the red.

However, the paranormal romance side of the plot was far less interesting. I would have liked to have seen more interaction between Miki and her alcoholic father as this story kind of petered out without resolution. Instead, the reader was treated the typical standard high school life that can only really be found in young adult novels. In this regard, Rush ticked every box on the checklist. Every romantic cliché can be found here including the love tetrahedron, the instant love for the “bad boy” even though he is a jerk-face and the super best friend who immediately becomes a bitch after a single tiny misunderstanding.

This wasn’t helped by the fact that the story fell into the common trap of telling rather than showing. While Silver is undoubtedly a decent writer, she still had a habit of world-building through lengthy info-dumps. At times, it almost seemed as though Miki was psychic. She just seemed to know everything about everyone. She was forever telling the reader how the other characters were really feeling and making logical leaps about the motivation of the Drau, even though she only encountered the aliens a couple of times over the course of the story. While the novel frequently notes that Miki had innate instincts when it came to fighting Drau, this explanation never felt satisfactory. Instinct would explain her fast reflexes, it wouldn’t explain how she understood alien strategy before she even discovered how they planned to take over the world.

Yet I will credit the novel for the character of Miki. Aside from her absurd intuition, she was far and away the most well rounded character of the story. I do really enjoy strong female characters and she was certainly that. Miki was intelligent and more than able to take care of herself. While it did annoy me that she was so quick to fall in love with Jackson (naturally expressing her irritation with him one breath and talking about how beautiful he was the next), I could certainly relate to her as a character and loved how she grew from being a frightened newbie to a confident leader over the course of the story.

I also grew to appreciate Jackson more as the story progressed. At first, I just wanted to shake him. His constant dodging of Miki’s questions and cryptic answers quickly grew frustrating. However, as his backstory was gradually revealed, it did do a good job of explaining his early actions. His constant self-doubt brought to mind Edward Cullen from Twilight and, while I don’t personally find this appealing, I can understand why readers gravitate towards characters of this type.

Unfortunately, no other character got much development at all. Although Luka was initially introduced as the “nice guy” suitor for Miki, he quickly faded into the background as Jackson took over the plot. Really, he and Tyrone existed only to bulk out the team. I also really could not stand Carly. Although Miki kept saying how selfless and loyal her friend was, Carly just came across as being wholly self-centred and willing to throw away a lifelong friendship because she heard that Miki hugged the boy that she had “called dibs on”. OMG. While I do know that girls like this do exist, I never had time for them while I was in high school and certainly don’t now.

So anyway, to conclude, I was underwhelmed by Rush on the whole. While there were aspects of it I liked I felt that it drew a lot of its inspiration from other sources, making it just feel too unoriginal and clichéd to be truly memorable. I really hope that the next book starts to flesh out the plot but I’m not really in any hurry to find out.

Rush can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk

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© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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