Sean Platt and David Wright have set some ambitious goals for themselves: they want to release one new episode a week for their 2012 serials. The two writers aim to be “The HBO or AMC of Kindle,” and go so far as to dub themselves “Kings of the Serial” according to their Amazon biography. And as I am looking to get into serials, I thought I would check out their newest story, titled Z 2134, a currently hot seller ranked #24 in the Science Fiction Adventure section of Kindle Singles. Upon diving into volume one, however, I found these men are not “Kings of the Serial.” They aren’t even Mayors.
Volume one of Z 2134 reads more like a novella than a serial as it was quite lengthy, or at least far longer than I expected. I thought I would be getting into something that was perhaps 30-40 pages and Z 2134 was a deal longer than that, probably closer to 100 (specifics unavailable since I read it as an E-Book). The serial experience in terms of Amazon is well done: buy the series for whatever price, and each new episode is uploaded to your Kindle, for free, as they’re released. So I definitely recommend Kindles for filling any of your serial needs. However, I also recommend you do your research in picking the series you read.
Z 2134 follows the stories of two characters, one of which is Anastasia Lovecraft. Ana lives in the post-apocalyptic world of 2134 and struggles with life in an orphanage after her father was arrested for killing her mother. Hours are long and tedious, free time is scarce, and on top of it all, she holds herself responsible for the welfare of her younger brother, Adam. The problem with Ana’s story, however, is that all danger she finds herself in doesn’t actually exist. The author’s just try to force tension into a story. For example, Ana finds herself at a church which is actually a meeting ground for the anarchist group “The Underground,” when all of a sudden, The Watchers, or the police, barge in looking for a criminal who is not, nor has any relation to, Anastasia. Soon, Anastasia finds herself locked in a crawl space with the man The Watchers actually seek, worrying what would happen if they find her. She hadn’t actually done anything wrong. There was no reason The Watchers would have wanted her at that instance; sure, she was at this scrutinized church, but so were countless other citizens with no relation to The Underground who were just there for a sermon. There would have been no reason to suspect Anastasia of a crime until she hides herself with a criminal.
Unfortunately, Anastasia’s character does not help her storyline. She spends the almost the entire volume hating Jonah, a character the authors try to get their readers to root for. Why would I like a character who constantly puts down a man I’m meant to like? If she isn’t putting down Jonah, she is incessantly worrying about her brother Adam, and what will become of him. That’s great! She’s such a loving sister. Except Adam is fifteen years old and in the care of the orphanage JUST LIKE HER. And it’s not like he’s disabled in anyway. The kid is described as highly intelligent countless times. There is nothing Anastasia does for him that he imperatively needs. It’s frustrating to read Anastasia’s character, as all she does is worry. And it gets tedious. I get he authors are trying to show her as a strong, protective sister. But their methodology for accomplishing that does not make for an entertaining read.
The other character featured in the novel is Jonah Lovecraft, Ana’s father who was framed and wrongly imprisoned for the murder of his wife. Prisoners in this serial, however, are sent to compete in the Darwin Games, where twelve prisoners, two from each of the six cities, fight to the death to earn their freedom. Now you’re probably thinking to yourself “gee, that sounds familiar, like something I read in a critically acclaimed teen fiction.” And you would be correct! Jonah’s story reads like Suzanne Collin’s The Hunger Games. Which is not to say they stole the plot from her: obviously arena plots have been used before. But after the recent success of The Hunger Games, I feel it crucial that those who use the “arena” style of conflict add their own twist to it – which Platt and Wright have done. There’s zombies out there in the Darwin Games arena! Which would be fantastic, but the authors make no effort to explain why there are zombies. If you’re going to cash in on the unexplainable sensation that is zombies, at least come up with a creative reason for their existence. Is there a disease outbreak? Government testing gone wrong? The positives to Jonah’s storyline is that he finds himself in real, suspenseful danger. His battles with zombies, inexplicable as they may be, are undoubtedly tense and fun to read through, and his battle with the Darwin Games juggernaut “Bear” provides a realistic fight, with a victory gained by wits and not brawn.
While Jonah’s storyline may be a worthwhile story, his character, much like Anastasia, leaves a lot to be desired. Through the nine or so chapters that make up volume one, Jonah’s thoughts and spoken word are comprised almost entirely of “fuck!” and “shit!” It’s makes it seem as though Platt and Wright just entered the fourth grade and discovered cussing, and are now eager to use the new vocabulary as frequently as possible in order to sound “edgy” or funny to their friends. But often times, the adult language took me out of the story as it was awkwardly forced into character dialogue. Jonah also seems to swing from giving up and accepting death while in the arena to changing his mind and standing to fight. Two or three times Jonah accepts death only to decide he won’t die and barely escape it a moment later. It’s hard to believe in a character when he doesn’t even believe in himself.
The positives from this installment came from Jonah’s story, which only made up about 40% of the story. I would have liked to see more of it. But many of the creative aspects of Jonah and Anastasia’s story are unexplained. The government uses chips for mind control – how? Why? Why wouldn’t they just mind control their enemies into following them instead of creating false memories to get testimony against them? Why are there zombies? Maybe these questions will be answered in another volume; maybe you can overlook these issues because you just love a good ole fashioned zombie smashing. And if that’s the case, you may be interested in checking out this series. But as for me, I found myself asking too many questions and not getting enough answers to continue reading Z 2134.
|*||PLOT: Misfire – The only thing this installment has going for it plot wise is that “arena” style conflict is exciting. Anastasia’s “search for truth” is boring and predictable and all conflict she faces is essentially non-existent.|
|*||CHARACTERS: Curse – Jonah curses like a high schooler who thinks it’s funny. Anastasia offers nothing.|
|*||CREATIVITY: Misfire – There are creative elements, but they’re either A) over-used arena plot; or B) unexplained. Why are there zombies? Why does the government have the power to mind control, yet not control anyone of significance?|
|*||UNREAL RATING: Misfire – These guys are not Kings of the Serial, and their arrogance to dub themselves as such is borderline insulting. There stories are not character-driven, but plot driven. The characters do not find themselves making impossible decisions that blur the line of black and white and make the reader question humanity. They’re merely passive vessels in a plot that’s poorly manipulated.|