Friday, February 15, 2019

Tour Book Review: The Expedition, by Chris Babu

The Expedition
(The Initiation, Book 2)
Chris Babu
Hardcover, 304 pages
Permuted Press
December 4, 2018
Dystopian Fiction, Science Fiction
Young Adult Fiction


Drayden and his friends thought nothing could be harder than the Initiation. Little did they know it had only been a warmup for the challenge that lay ahead.

With New America’s situation dire, Drayden and the pledges venture out into the unexplored world outside the walls, escorted by a team of elite Guardians. The group seeks to contact another civilization in what remains of Boston, but Drayden has secret goals of his own.

Dangers abound in the real world, including Aeru, the deadly superbug that wiped out humanity. While they battle the elements of a desolate landscape, a power struggle emerges within their ranks. The Guardians seem to be carrying out a covert mission themselves, and the quest turns everything they thought they knew about New America upside down.

I received a complimentary copy of this 
novel from TLC Book Tours. 
I greatly enjoyed it, and all opinions are my own.

It's not often that I read a dystopian/science fiction novel as good as this one! From beginning to end, Babu engages and keeps the reader's interest. I was totally riveted!

As the novel opens, readers find themselves in New America, which was introduced in the first book of the series -- The Initiation. This is what's left of one section of the United States, after a worldwide bacterial epidemic (the bug is named "Aeru") wipes out most of the world's population. This includes large sections of the U.S.

New America is concentrated in Manhattan,which was part of what used to be known as New York City. The inhabitants of New America live in an enclave surrounded by a wall that protects them from Aeru. The "government", if such it may be called, is in the hands of The Bureau. (I think this group might be a reference to the FBI. I'm not entirely sure about this, since I haven't read the first book. It sounds plausible, though.)

There's a Premier Holst, who runs The Bureau, and a VERY unsavory character named Harris Von Brooks, who is the Premier's Chief of Staff. He is also in charge of the expedition referred to in the book's title. 

The Bureau basically runs the lives of people living in New America. There's a place called "The Palace", where Bureau members and other elite individuals live, while the rest of the population resides in "the Dorms", which are not pleasant dwellings at all.

The whole thrust of the plot is an expedition to Boston. This is a Bureau project, to which Drayden, as well as three other teens -- Catrice, his girlfriend, Sidney, and Charlie -- have been forcibly assigned. The purpose of the mission is to find out whether Boston is deserted, or might be a refuge for other Aeru survivors. New America is in trouble, with dwindling food supplies, and is reaching out for help.  In fact, The Bureau has resorted to the horrible practice of exiling random people, because of the problem of not having enough food to feed the entire population.

In regards to this, I'm including a very interesting, yet chilling quote which includes a nod to Star Trek TOS (The Original Series), as well as the subsequent movies created from it. I was very happy to recognize Babu as a fellow Trekker!

"The Bureau's policy was barbaric and unfair, but it wasn't illogical. The city didn't have enough resources to support the population anymore. They believed they had a choice between exiling a few people or allowing everyone to die. It was the essence of the philosophy of utilitarianism, which his original mentor, Mr. Kale, had taught them about in school. It also echoed the words of Spock, from the one Star Trek movie played in the Dorms -- The Wrath of Khan. He said the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few. The red-and-green-hats challenge in the Initiation was even designed to drive the message home. 'All might be done, but for one', was how they had phrased it. They'd said a group's well-being superseded any individual's." (Chapter 6, pg. 56)

So this is a society driven by harsh realities, as well as by a ruthless ruling group, led by a premier, who will not hesitate to achieve its ends by justifying the means. There's an overall feeling of suspicion, as undercurrents of unrest flow beneath the whole society. There are cameras everywhere, and Drayden even wonders if The Bureau has bugs hidden in people's apartments. Although I have not read the novel 1984, I was immediately reminded of "Big Brother". That was because the concept this entails has become a well-known motif in our contemporary society, thanks to the author of that book -- George Orwell.

I immediately found myself liking three of the four sixteen-year-old protagonists -- especially Drayden, who is a math and science genius, and the main focus of the story. In spite of his superior intelligence, he remains a very down- to-earth guy, with insecurities and vulnerabilities. And he's sensitive, too; he has doubts about his girlfriend's love for him, as he desperately wants her to return his own love for her. He's also a very brave guy who doesn't back down from a challenge.

The other three teens are obviously of secondary importance, although each has a role to play in the book. I didn't like Catrice, as she blew hot and cold in her relationship with Drayden. Sidney was great, though; she was loyal to a fault, and always ready for action! As for Charlie, he was a blast as the group's clown! His jokes often made me roll my eyes, though. Still, he was perfect comic relief!

These four teens have gone through something called "The Initiation", which is some sort of survival test. Again, I have not read the first book, which gives the details of this test. Babu does provide readers with enough hints about it, however, so that we can get the general idea: it's a combination of brainteasers and physical challenges.

Survivors of this initiation are few and far between, so it's clear that it's a very dangerous, challenging test. Drayden and his friends are thus viewed as heroes by the inhabitants of New America. Unfortunately, this means that The Bureau has chosen them for the dangerous trip to Boston. They are considered expendable, which is ironic, considering their heroic status.

The teens are accompanied on the trip by four elite Guardians -- highly trained soldiers in the service of The Bureau. One of them, an eighteen-year-old named Eugene, immediately befriends Drayden and his companions. I really liked Eugene! He was not only strong, which is, of course, a requirement for a Guardian, but also handsome, charming, and smart, to boot. However, he did seem to be "too good to be true", and I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop in regards to him.

The plot is full of twists and turns, as the author introduces other elements into the story, such as a conspiracy against The Bureau, and Drayden's secret search for information on what happened to his mother, who had been exiled by someone in The Bureau. The action is exciting, fast-paced, and full of drama, as a power struggle emerges between Drayden and his friends, and the Guardians. 

I LOVED the world-building! Babu has created a very believable setting for this novel. Like all dystopias, this one has an overarching feeling of doom-and-gloom. The descriptions of partially and totally destroyed bridges in the area of New York were vivid, and I felt so sad that The Bureau had destroyed them, in order to quarantine what remained of New York City, thus preventing the spread of the disease. They also had vaccines, though. But the destruction, whether partial or whole, of the NYC bridges was unfortunately necessary.

Interestingly, Babu has invented some new slang terms, such as "shkat", "chotch", and "flunk". The first one seems to have a meaning similar to "s--t", while the second one apparently means "idiot". The third is perhaps similar to the Yiddish term "schmuck", which means "idiot" as well.

The time period of the novel is not specified. I imagine Babu did that in his first book. However, one does get the feeling, in this second book, that it's not that far into the future -- perhaps about 50 years or so ahead of our own time. 

Now I'm eager to read The Initiation, in order to find out how these four characters (especially Drayden) mastered the challenges of the test! 

This is a well-crafted, intellectually compelling novel that also includes a lot of action, very engaging characters, and a futuristic world on the brink of destruction. The fact that it's a Young Adult novel should not deter older adults from reading it, as it deals with very important themes that fuse politics with philosophy. 

This is not only a GREAT addition to the Young Adult Fiction genre, but to the dystopian sub-genre of science fiction! KUDOS to Chris Babu for having created such a riveting book! I hope this novel, as well as its predecessor, will hit movie theaters soon! I would LOVE to see both!


Purchase Links

Be sure to check out the first book in this EXCITING series!!
Click on the cover for the book's Goodreads page.

Chris Babu grew up in North Haven, CT, playing soccer and the violin in his free time. After devouring The Shining under the covers with a flashlight when he was eight, Chris was hooked on fiction. He’s always had a thing for young adult books. But he’s also a major science and math nerd—physics being his favorite—and he has a math degree from MIT.
For nineteen years, he worked as a bond trader on Wall Street, riding the subway to and from work every day. He traded mortgage-backed securities for Bank of America and then Deutsche Bank, where he eventually ran the MBS trading desk. Now Chris writes full-time, always with his trusted assistant Buddy, a 130-pound Great Dane, who can usually be found on his lap. They split their time between New York City and the east end of Long Island. Their omnipresence at home drives his wife Michelle and daughter Lily crazy. 


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  1. Super review Maria. Your reviews are so enlightening and they really capture the essence of the book.

    I tend to really like dystopias. I also like the idea of people going out and exploring post apocalyptic worlds. This sounds good in many other ways too.

    The cameras and surveillance does indeed sound like Ninteen Eighty Four. Orwell reslly has given us all sorts of devices to talk about totalitarianism.

    I think that it is neat when an author creates slang. Aldous Huxley did this, and put a lot of work into a future slang in A Clockwork Orange.

    I would be curious as to what you think about the first book in the series.

    Have a great weekend!

    1. Hi, Brian!

      THANK YOU SO MUCH for the compliment!!! <3 <3 <3

      As you can see, I put my ENTIRE self into my reviews! This one took me several hours to write, as I revised it over and over. Maybe that'a why I don't post that many On the other hand, there are reviews that, for some reason, I dash off quickly. Not this one, though!

      Sorry for the late reply..... As you know from my BBH post on Sunday, I am considering taking a break from blogging, much to my regret. I am getting WAY behind on my replies and comments back... and it's because of work, as you know.

      Dystopias do tend to be depressing, so I have mixed feelings about reading them. However, they are intellectually stimulating. And heck, it SURE feels like we're living in a real-life dystopia now, with this FAKE national emergency announcement Trump has made!!!!

      Yes, the cameras and the surveillance remind me of the "Big Brother" concept. It's very interesting how great writers can make concepts in their books part of our overall culture, as Orwell has done.

      I agree that it's GREAT when an author creates slang, or any new language, for that matter. Usually, authors will include a glossary when they do this. Babu has instead given contextual clues as to what his slang words might mean. I think they're very funny, too!

      As for "A Clockwork Orange", I have never read it, nor do I intend to. I do know what the plot is about, and I DETEST it!! Besides, years ago, I happened to see a still from the movie, which showed some white, plastic tables shaped like naked women leaning over.....UGH. UGH. UGH. MISOGYNISTIC IN THE EXTREME!!!

      Yes, I now need to read Babu's first book, to see how I like it. I think I will probably like it a lot!

      Since I'm replying to you on February 19th, I hope you had a GREAT Presidents' Day!! There were national MoveOn protests regarding the so-called "national emergency", but, unfortunately, I was unable to attend the one here in Miami.

      Thanks so much for commenting!! <3 :)


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