This is actually written correctly to the formulas for an action-adventure much more so than for sci-fi though it fits comfortably into both categories, and I say that as a ringing endorsement, because the action genre is universally considered the hardest one to write in. To keep the pace moving at a clip without subjecting the reader to shallow, cardboard cutout characters is often considered the greatest challenge, or, just as bad, making us think of a hundred other similar movies we’ve seen or books we’ve read in the latest uninspired rehash. Rob tiptoes through this minefield of this genre’s overworked tropes by taking some hard unexpected right turns periodically throughout the story, keeping the reader on his toes.
Standouts for me were the compelling lead male hero (rare for Rob, he usually goes with female heroes), and having a gang of teens see what they can do to save the world while being, well, entirely believable teens. That is to say, they’re typically over their heads for having a bad hair day or a cute guy look at them the wrong way, far less having meteors land on their heads and top secret organizations on their tails. But the very underwhelming nature of our hero and his sidekicks makes for humor and a taut thriller-like atmosphere throughout. And when our hero comes into his own, not only is his maturation that much more fun to watch, but his facility with next generation technologies quickly puts the reader on notice that what moments ago seemed like the least likely of heroes, suddenly makes a lot more sense when coming up against high-tech foes, as who’s better and more fluent in cutting edge tech than the latest generation on line? (Um, for those of you who will recall the thrust of Ender’s Game, I think you’ll see I’m not going out on a limb here.)
Some challenges for me were, I’d like to have seen the personalities of the sidekicks a little more developed. But this is a nitpick as a compelling hero more than makes up for that in my mind, and also, well, you’re either doing a character driven piece or you’re doing an action piece. So while some readers might prefer a few more breathers to flesh out the sidekicks more, others will likely say, you’re now no longer being true to formula; keep the roller coaster moving, please! So some of these comments may just fall under you can’t please all the people all the time. And, as I said at the outset, at least the characters were believable and real as opposed to two-dimensional.
I’d also like to have seen a little more B-story romance, perhaps a female protagonist on par with our hero for a little added tension and titillation. But again, not going down this road is certainly a valid choice for this genre. One will recall that in many action adventure stories, the hero and heroine are lucky if they just find their way into one another’s arms and kiss at the end.