Randoms by David Liss
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Is the current generation looking for their own Ender's Game? I'm not really sure, but with Randoms, we might have found it anyway. It's a great story with both modern societal analogues and some classic tropes to go along with them, and there's a lot to love.
Zeke is a typical, average kid who is effectively drafted to be part of a four kid delegation in the universe's federation. He's the "random," chosen not for any particular skills or reason, but simply to have a wild card draftee. In this outer space, the society advances through video game-style leveling up, complete with experience points, which is right in line with Zeke's skillset. Unfortunately, his skillset also ends up getting him involved in what becomes an intergalactic incident that threatens the universe as we know it.
The book is really well done and brilliant in its execution. The use of video game logic for the societal rankings has certainly been done before, but the way it's done here feels fresh and different. The stakes also felt high throughout, which is, frankly, a rarity in young adult literature period, never mind in science fiction. There's a lot to enjoy about the story, about how it handles the diversity concepts, and just the overall fun of the book. Very well done.
Ultimately, if you like science fiction, this is worth a look whether you read YA or not. It's a fun read with a lot going for it, and I can't wait for the sequel.
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