The First, by Kipjo Ewers, is a thrilling, compelling tale, told on a very personal level, about the collision of the better and worse aspects of human nature. It is a focused, well-told story with and inspiring theme and admirable characters. And the attention to detail brings this world to vivid life. I say again, reading it is like watching a movie. Oh, and though it offered potential for a sequel, it stands completely on its own. Very well done.
Now I’ve read the sequel: Evo Uprising.
In some ways, it’s a step down from The First.
Let me rush to add that it’s also a step up in some ways.
So I guess that makes it a step side-ways, and whether that side-step happens to take it up or down at the same time… well, that’s open for debate.
One big difference between The First and Evo Uprising is how First didn’t need anything before or after it to be complete. Uprising, as a sequel, absolutely needs its predecessor, but it’s also been constructed in such a way that the story it tells won’t really be finished until the ongoing series is complete. Not only does it have some pretty strong, and repetitive, indicators of what’s to come, but it ends by setting up at least two more conflicts being set into motion. Oh, and it ends with something straight out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “These characters/heroes will return!”
So, yes, Uprising doesn’t really feel finished the same way First does. Ewers found a good stopping point, but that’s not the same as having a truly satisfying conclusion, ya know?
Also, he could use some lessons in subtle foreshadowing. We don’t need to have exactly the same conversation carried out in several places in order to take the proverbial hint of what ominous dangers lurk in the darkness. We certainly don’t need to see it in detail at the end, like an extended Avengers post-credits scene that out-and-out reveals the villain’s survival.
Forgive me for being vague, but I am trying to skate around spoilers. Which Ewers could do with some practice in, I think.
Sorry, small soap box moment. :p
Another difference between the two novels is in the role and significance of the secondary characters. In First, the story belonged almost exclusively to Sophia Dennison. Mark Armitage was the male lead, but his role was relatively minor, really. Still served perfectly to help carry the emotional weight of the story, especially in showing us how monstrous the villains are. And we know how evil they are, because we know the people they murder, even if we only met them briefly, once or twice.
In Uprising, Sophia may own a goodly portion of the story, but it’s not all hers. Not only does her daughter, Kimberly, make her presence felt, but so does the US Government’s Evo squad, entitled the Regulators. The story is mostly driven by the Regulators at first, but then Sophia gets some time in the driver’s seat, and Kimberly’s presence grows into greater significance starting around halfway through. It’s much more balanced in that way than First was.
On the other hand, while the villains are much more blatantly insane, I felt a certain disconnect with the terror they inflict. First largely had its villains in the shadows, coming up behind people and stabbing them in the back, with cold efficiency. Uprising had them charging straight at the world and bathing (somewhat literally) in blood. Sick and twisted, yet out of everyone they successfully kill, we don’t really know them. Any of them. A number of them die practically within the same breath that first mentions them. I don’t mean to quibble, but the horror of the villains would have been weightier if we’d known their victims as we did in First.
Along that same line, the timely arrival of a certain ally to join the final battle felt very deus ex machina, because, again, it was our first time meeting her. I still have no idea who she is, yet she played a pivotal role right at the climax. One rule of storytelling is to never introduce something pivotal in the final act.
So, on the one hand, the plot was shared more evenly among several main characters, but, on the other, there was still something left to be desired.
On the bright side, Ewers kept the personal element of the story fully intact. The relationships among the Regulators were fantastic, and the emotional bond which forms between Sophia and Kimberly was nothing short of beautiful to behold. I could just hear the soft, serene music playing when they took their first flight together. Sophia might be the most powerful person in the world, and her daughter may well surpass her before too much longer, but they and the Regulators are still people. I love that. It was all very realistic, especially the tender moments.
…and I’m fairly certain I’m not the only one shipping Sophia and the Regulators’ commanding officer. 😀
Though, again, there is a flip-side. When the author has a forward note that basically defends his choice to write out people’s accents in detail, which is a huge no-no among writers because that makes your characters unintelligible, you know it’s going to be bad. Thankfully, such instances weren’t prolonged, but they were definitely less enjoyable than the rest of the story.
Also, far too many pop culture references. It’s hard for a series to last very long when it relies on so many of them. (hmmm, I wonder what it says that I got every single one of them outside the musical references?)
More seriously, regarding Sophia being as human as anyone else, that makes her as prone to mistaken beliefs as anyone else. Which makes her decision to keep apart the world perfectly sensible, so she doesn’t become a tyrant. At the end, however, she’s decided to go out and start actively imposing her will on the world. And her “hero name” is Freedom. Which is the height of irony. She is wrong in so many ways, and it’s annoying to hear it over and over and over – how my family did not murder me when I was spouting similar crap as a teenager, I will never know – and now she’s moving towards ruling the world the same way the villains would have: by being too powerful for anyone to oppose.
Oh, sure, she means to help people, and she actually has compassion and sanity on her side, but she’s still doing what villains do. Just a slightly softer version of it and fighting people we don’t like right now.
Bit of a major fumble there, but one which, I hope, will offer a great deal to comment on in future novels. It can be so much fun when the author plays with the classification of heroes and villains! As evidenced by A Song of Ice and Fire and Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Supervillain and The School for Good and Evil and more! After all… the villains are the hero of their own story, aren’t they? Just like everyone else! 😉
To sum-up: I hope it’s fair of me to say that Ewers improved on some things with Uprising, but he also seems to be making more rookie mistakes at the same time.
Whatever its flaws, Evo Uprising – which doesn’t seem to have an actual “uprising” at all, really – is still a thrilling story, with impressive action sequences, tender moments, and realistic human characters, as well as twists, turns, and surprises.
I forewarn potential readers of the flaws I’ve waxed eloquent about (sorry, I do tend to do that, don’t I?), but, in the end, I really do recommend this book. I will recommend even more after the next several books, and the entire series as a whole, have come out.
Rating: 8 stars out of 10. Same as The First.
Grade: B-Minus. Just a shade lower than The First.