Review: Hullmetal Girls

Tuesday, July 3, 2018
Title: Hullmetal Girls
Author: Emily Skrutskie
Genre: science fiction
Series: N/A
Pages: 320
Published: 2018
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 2.5/5

Aisha Un-Haad would do anything for her family. When her brother contracts a plague, she knows her janitor's salary isn't enough to fund his treatment. So she volunteers to become a Scela, a mechanically enhanced soldier sworn to protect and serve the governing body of the Fleet, the collective of starships they call home. If Aisha can survive the harrowing modifications and earn an elite place in the Scela ranks, she may be able to save her brother.

Key Tanaka awakens in a Scela body with only hazy memories of her life before. She knows she's from the privileged end of the Fleet, but she has no recollection of why she chose to give up a life of luxury to become a hulking cyborg soldier. If she can make it through the training, she might have a shot at recovering her missing past.

In a unit of new recruits vying for top placement, Aisha's and Key's paths collide, and the two must learn to work together--a tall order for girls from opposite ends of the Fleet. But a rebellion is stirring, pitting those who yearn for independence from the Fleet against a government struggling to maintain unity.

With violence brewing and dark secrets surfacing, Aisha and Key find themselves questioning their loyalties. They will have to put aside their differences, though, if they want to keep humanity from tearing itself apart.

While I remain a big fan of this author and her apparently boundless and horrific imagination (that's a compliment, trust me) I found Hullmetal Girls to be maybe 2.5 stars out of 5 if I am being lenient. Maybe. I have to admit that I am disappointed by the lackluster effort that is her third novel. I expect big things from the mind behind The Abyss Surrounds Us and while this book has more than a few good ideas and a few clever science fiction angles, the messy execution of them makes it hard to stick around, much less immerse myself in Key and Aisha's POVs. 

This is a standalone so I understand the author didn't have the time of say her earlier duology to frame and fill her imagined world/starships, but there are many questions left about how the districts work; some subplots are woven into the gaps of the information but overall it's a patchy framework from which to hang a story. The setup of this space-dystopia is also unfailingly familiar to anyone whose read even just the Hunger Games. Skrutskie is usually brimming with originality and flair -- and while the second talent is on display with things like the Scela system, the "rich and poor numbered district' left much to be desired.

The worldbuilding is sink or swim when it comes to the hard scifi (and then comes the body horror, be prepared), but without enough information provided and the POVs felt indistinguishable. There is a definite uptick after about 65% in -- the story makes up somewhat for lost time by the end but it's not enough to entirely compensate. It takes a long time for basic details of Key and Aisha's life to be understood -- how the Scela work, what their function is within the ships, what the General Body means and how it ties into the story. It's clumsily rendered and often too late; I finished the novel because I was intrigued in one of the plots, but not due to any attachment to the characters themselves.

A swing and a miss for Skrutskie's third at bat, but I'll definitely be checking out her fourth.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Copyright © 2015 Ageless Pages Reviews. All Rights Reserved.

Amelia Theme by The Lovely Design CO and These Paper Hearts.