Return to gone (review)
Gone is a young adult science fiction novel, which slowly builds to become a rather epic piece of superhero fiction. It is the first book in the series of the same name. It is a comparatively lightweight and derivative work, making its mark by repackaging familiar plot elements for a young(ish) audience, but even so it doesn't do too bad a job.
Sam Temple is sitting in class one day when the teacher disappears. Just like that, one second he's there, the next he's not. And when the class goes to look for help, the other teachers are missing too. In fact, everyone in the school over the age of 15 has mysteriously vanished. And as they search further, they find that this is not limited to the school -- the whole town of Perdido Beach, California seems to have rid itself of adults. The kids go through the expected stage of panic, but in short order they start to cope with matters; some bullies take charge, some of the more responsible ones take over the running of the daycare and the McDonald's, and various levels of looting are undertaken.
Sam is somewhat of a leader figure, having a reputation as level-headed and competent; when he was younger he saved a bus from driving off a cliff when the bus driver had a heart attack. He lives up to his reputation now, managing to more-or-less keeps his head, and when an apartment building catches fire (many stove-tops were left on when the adults disappeared), he's the one who runs in to save a trapped girl. But he's not particularly organized, and instead of helping the other kids get themselves sorted out and keeping the bullies under control, he takes off with his friend Quinn too look for a lost boy with severe autism; during this search he becomes friends with the boy's sister, Astrid, and another competent searcher, Edilio. These four return to town to find the bullies firmly in control.
This would be enough trouble, but it also becomes apparent that many of the children are developing superpowers -- and some of the others are reacting badly to the 'freaks'. And then some of the local animals start mutating and gaining powers themselves. And then they discover that whenever any of the children turn fifteen, they disappear too...
This is a pretty good book. It manages to keep the surprises coming and make a rather large cast of characters interesting. It is rather violent at times, although really only what you'd expect from a superhero movie. At the same time, it is clearly a second-rate story, using very familiar elements and mixing too many fantastical elements together. It tends to be written for entertainment value, and often things happen because they are narratively useful, not because they are logical. Quite frankly, it matches my mental image of the stereotypical YA series -- light reading, sensationalism, and pandering to a generation raised on TV. That said, it is a fun read, and even at 550 pages it goes by pretty quickly. And a lot of the elements are a tip of the hat to the X-Men and related series, which have a long tradition of shaky science and Exciting Plot Twists.
The series currently has five books, although another, presumably final, book will be coming out shortly.