The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings
Book One of The Murder Complex series
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication Date: June 10, 2014
Rating: 3 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss
Summary (from Goodreads):
An action-packed, blood-soaked, futuristic debut thriller set in a world where the murder rate is higher than the birthrate. For fans of Moira Young’s Dust Lands series, La Femme Nikita, and the movie Hanna.
Meadow Woodson, a fifteen-year-old girl who has been trained by her father to fight, to kill, and to survive in any situation, lives with her family on a houseboat in Florida. The state is controlled by The Murder Complex, an organization that tracks the population with precision.
The plot starts to thicken when Meadow meets Zephyr James, who is—although he doesn’t know it—one of the MC’s programmed assassins. Is their meeting a coincidence? Destiny? Or part of a terrifying strategy? And will Zephyr keep Meadow from discovering the haunting truth about her family?
Action-packed, blood-soaked, and chilling, this is a dark and compelling debut novel by Lindsay Cummings.
What I Liked:
I'm going to be honest - I had never heard of this book, until Harper uploaded it to Edelweiss, and everyone on Twitter FREAKED OUT because OMG IT'S LINDSAY CUMMINGS IT'S THE MURDER COMPLEX OMG! I didn't really understand the excitement. Debut author? Okay. Murder-based thriller? Okay. Not processing the craziness surrounding this book. But alright then. I'll bite. I downloaded this book from Edelweiss solely because everyone one Twitter was wigging out. I had little to no expectations - heck, I didn't even know what this book was about.
Meadow has been trained by her father to defend herself, to harm others, and to survive. In this post-apocalyptic world where hunger, famine, and disease destroys the state, the population continues to swell. In order to get a job, Meadow must kill her competitor, to prove herself worthy, Zephyr James has a different problem. He is a Ward, an orphan, and has no chance of getting a "real" job. But what he doesn't realize is that he is controlled by The Murder Complex, a program set up to control the minds of the selected patients (like Zephyr). The patient loses consciously temporarily, and the program takes over, in which the patient is programmed to kill a specific person. Zephyr has been doing this for years without knowing - until his target is an unknown, moonlit girl - Meadow.
I definitely liked Meadow, and Zephyr. Meadow is HARDCORE. You in books like Throne of Glass, where you have a supposedly hardcore heroine who is really just a hyped-up pansy who can't actually execute? In this book, Meadow is not afraid to kill. She is not afraid to bust some brain. I LOVE that Cummings made Meadow human, yet ruthless. If this heroine was just another one of those FAKE "badass" heroines (*cough* like in Throne of Glass *cough*), I'd be mad. Sometimes, being human means doing horrible things to protect your family. Meadow lives in a lawless society - the only laws are basically not to steal rations and to honor the Dark Hour (or something like that). Therefore, Meadow should be killing or hurting people with little conscious. Granted, she DOES have a conscious, but I'm just saying - in the type of society in which she lives, it would be acceptable to be merciless.
Zephyr is also intense, but in a different way. He doesn't mean to be a cold-blooded assassin, but that is what he is made to be. He has not idea that he is part of a program, that he is controlled be the program, that every time the program wants to off someone, they shut his conscious brain down, and he viciously hunts the target and kills him/her. But really, Zephyr is one big softie, in the midst of a cruel and unfeeling world. He cares about other orphans, about his fellow Wards. He falls in love with Meadow easily, believing that she is his fairy tale, moonlit girl. Little does he know that he is programmed to kill her.
This book has several parts. Meadow must prepare herself to get a job - in which she must pass the test first. Meadow gets the job, and not two days into getting the job, she uses all of her Creds to save Zephyr, a boy she sees killing himself. When Zephyr learns that it was Meadow that saved him, he stops at nothing to find her, to thank her. But his internal programming recognizes the target, and Zephyr unknowingly tries to kill Meadow.
The rest of the book deals with Meadow trying to figure out who really killed her mother, and how the Murder Complex works. Meadow hates Zephyr, but she takes him with her, since the government is after both of them, and Zephyr is a puzzle that she doesn't understand. Meadow's family is missing, and Meadow will stop at nothing to get them back. Everything comes down to the very end, all the things will be revealed - the Complex, Meadow's mother, Zephyr's past.
The world-building is superb! This book is set in Florida in the way future, after a terrible disaster occurred (i can't remember exactly what it was, but I'm marking this book under "Post-Apocalypse"). Easily one of the best things that Cummings did was carefully and masterfully create the world. You'll see in the next section that I had plenty of problems with this book, but the world-building was not one of them.
Read on for the rest of my opinion on this book! It wasn't all A+'s.
What I Did Not Like:
I'll start with the romance. It was very insta-love-y, at least on Zephyr's end. He sees her once, putting flowers by the dead people plaque markers (or whatever), and he fancies himself in love with her. Literally for the rest of the book, he acts starstruck and stupid around her. And Meadow! The WHOLE TIME she hates him, and then, towards the end of the book, suddenly she loves him. The switch is RAPID, really sudden, and did not flow or progress well at all. I knew that Zephyr and Meadow would eventually be A THING. But Meadow hated Zephyr (like, HATED hated) up until he tries to kiss her, and then things change really quickly. What?
There was a huge amount of predictability to this story. Hmm, how do I put this. It seems like every YA novel with a dystopian society has the protagonist's role replicated in the same manner. EVERY protagonist's father or mother is the person that created or designed something powerful and amazing, and that same parent had intended it for good, but all good things get corrupted, right? That's exactly what happened in this book. I can think of two other YA book immediately, off the top of my head, that involve the protagonist's parent being the genius that started it all - try In the After by Demitria Lunetta, or Legend by Marie Lu, or Black City by Elizabeth Richards. Now, I enjoyed those three books. But I read them before I read this one. Is it fair that this book is picked on, because it was written after those three, but independently of them? Meh. I think it is. YA authors read YA books by YA-writing authors. They know things.
So, it's quite obvious who Meadow's mother is, from the start, and her role. It's quite obvious what needs to happen with the program. Everything is just SO OBVIOUS, once you put things together, which is what happened with me. The uniqueness of the constant violence and the cruel world of future-day Florida is what kept me going, why I kept reading.
I'm going to cut the author some slack on this next part, because I just went and asked her if there would be a sequel (as of right now, this is book one of a duology), but THE ENDING. You hate cliffhangers? Well, get ready for a good old-fashioned cliffhanger, leaving you right in the middle of the action. This book literally cuts off RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF A SCENE. AHHHH. ENOUGH SAID.
Thank goodness there is another book after this one. I might have given this book one star, if it were a standalone.
Would I Recommend It:
Honestly? Eh, not really. I feel obligated to say yes, yes I would recommend this novel. It seems like the entire book blogosphere is super excited about this book. Me? Honestly, I hadn't heard of it before it was uploaded to Edelweiss. So, everyone is screaming for this book. However, personally, I don't think it's a must-read. It was definitely full of potential, and I WILL be reading the next book, and I expect good things!
3.5 stars -> rounded down to 3 stars. An excellent debut, fantastic writing style, interesting buildup and breakdown of the world and story... but there so many things left wanting, or lacking. This book has lots of potential though! I can definitely see the appeal.
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