“SYLO” by D. J. MacHale: Military Sci-Fi Thriller series

SYLO by D.J. MacHale; pub date July 2, 2013; ISBN 9781595146656

SYLO cover courtesy GoodReads

SYLO cover image courtesy GoodReads

“It was a perfect night for a football game. And for death.”

Pemberwick Island is a idyllic place to live, and the big Friday night entertainment draw for this small, tourist-destination community is high school football. All that changes after freshman rookie tailback Tucker Pierce watches star player Marty Wiggins die on the field after playing an amazing game. As Tucker scans the stands, he sees someone, an outsider, furiously writing notes, and the stranger then disappears. After some other residents die unexplained deaths, a branch of the military known as SYLO comes in and quarantines the island because an unknown virus caused the deaths: no coming or going for anyone. And they mean it.

Amidst the military incursion, the stranger from the football game is trying to push an all-natural seawater-derived sports supplement on Tucker and his friends. Known as “Ruby” thanks to its red crystalline appearance, the salts do indeed improve strength and speed, but at what cost? Is that what’s killing people and not a virus? Or is the timing coincidental?

After Tucker and his best friend Quinn see an unexplained aerial explosion and the strange manta-like aircraft “shadows”, and after the military stops Pemberwick residents from communicating with the outside world completely, Tucker and his friends begin to think there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye…and they know they must somehow get to the mainland and let the world know what’s going on.

Mr. MacHale does get you involved in this tale from the beginning (it starts with a teen’s death on the football field, after all), but I do have complaints about the book: Tucker seems to believe the authorities a little too readily and is overall a little too wishy-washy to be any kind of leader; the girl he likes, Tori, isn’t a likeable character (I’ve little tolerance for moody chicks who can’t even answer a simple “hello” without being grumpy about it); and we’re never let in on what Tucker’s parents have to do with the whole thing – Tucker’s running all over the island with this SYLO military on the loose and they don’t seem to wonder where he is or if he’s okay? Are they even around anymore? Their actions made me wonder if they’re his actual parents, or if they’re weren’t more like the handlers known as “Mom” and “Dad” in Zadoff’s Boy Nobody.

I’d give it a solid 3/5 if rating it at Amazon because the storyline itself is interesting — what would happen if the military decides some small island community needed to be “maintained”– and the chase scenes are interesting enough (albeit a bit overlong sometimes), but there are too many unanswered questions at the end. I realize it’s a series with the next installment, Storm due out 3/18/14, so perhaps my dis-satisfaction isn’t  warranted, but I would have liked at least some questions answered before finishing the book’s final sentence: What is SYLO? What is ruby? Who is Olivia, really? Are Tucker’s parent’s involved?  Why aren’t Tucker’s parents concerned about his safety and where are they? What are the flying manta-shaped aircraft that make a strange musical noise?

Too many questions for a satisfying read, and so I recommended it with reservations.

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