What a wild and fun ride! While I wanted to devour this book in one sitting, I wasn’t able to, but I don’t really mind. I enjoyed it and savored it. It’s incredibly unique and unlike anything I’ve read in a long while.
Title: Rebel Seoul
Author: Axie Oh
Publisher: Tu Books
Release date: September 14, 2017
Genre: Young adult, sci-fi, dystopian
Length: 389 pages (U.S. hardcover)
Synopsis: (via Goodreads) “After a great war, the East Pacific is in ruins. In brutal Neo Seoul, where status comes from success in combat, ex-gang member Lee Jaewon is a talented pilot rising in the ranks of the academy. Abandoned as a kid in the slums of Old Seoul by his rebel father, Jaewon desires only to escape his past and prove himself a loyal soldier of the Neo State.
When Jaewon is recruited into the most lucrative weapons development division in Neo Seoul, he is eager to claim his best shot at military glory. But the mission becomes more complicated when he meets Tera, a test subject in the government’s supersoldier project. Tera was trained for one purpose: to pilot one of the lethal God Machines, massive robots for a never-ending war.
With secret orders to report on Tera, Jaewon becomes Tera’s partner, earning her reluctant respect. But as respect turns to love, Jaewon begins to question his loyalty to an oppressive regime that creates weapons out of humans. As the project prepares to go public amidst rumors of a rebellion, Jaewon must decide where he stands—as a soldier of the Neo State, or a rebel of the people.
Pacific Rim meets Korean action dramas in this mind-blowing, New Visions Award-winning science fiction debut.”
First off, let me say that I am automatically a huge advocate of this book. This is written by a Korean author, and the setting of the book takes place in futuristic Korea. For me, reading this book felt like coming home. Not that I’ve ever been to South Korea, mind you, but it felt comforting all the same. There wasn’t any adapting or learning of particular cultural habits or traditions because I already knew. It was a really great feeling.
But besides that, the writing is so smooth and natural that progressing in this world with our main character, Lee Jaewon, was easy as well. The characters were well-developed, too, and as I continued to read, I was a bit conflicted with a few characters due to some revelations about their past. (But! I will tell you that I did not see that character twist toward the end…) The characters truly captivated me as there were such a wide range of them–from Alex, son of the Director and part of a chaebol family, to Sela the K-pop star, and then the lovable duo Bora and Minwoo.
We also see Jaewon trying to reconcile his past and his present, his father’s actions with his own, dealing with his childhood best friend and confronting his mother. I definitely liked both Ama and Tera. We actually saw some vulnerability with General Tsuko, whose only 15! But it wasn’t enough to make me feel for the character in particular. As for the building of the romantic relationships between Alex and Ama and Jaewon and Tera… It felt lacking. I liked how the two boys wanted to make the girls feel as normal as possible in spite of the circumstances of the girls’ purpose, but I didn’t really feel anything. This is definitely why a half star was knocked off.
Now as for the descriptions of Old Seoul and Neo Seoul, along with the Dome and the God Machines (GMs), and giving the history of the country–I definitely loved every bit of that. At first, I thought I would become confused, but Oh does a great job explaining this and giving us small bits of information as the story progresses. We’re left with a little bit of hope in the end, too, in more ways than one for Jaewon and the state of Neo Seoul.
Rebel Seoul is an amazing debut for Axie Oh, and I’ll be on the look out for whatever else she writes in the future, especially if its anything like this first book.
You can purchase this book from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Book Depository, or IndieBound. Unfortunately, I haven’t found this book in stores at a physical B&N nor at my local Indie store, so you may have to order it from an Indie store.