Sunday, March 9, 2014

Review: Burn Out by Kristi Helvig

Burn Out by Kristi Helvig
Book One of an untitled series
Publisher: Egmont 
Publication Date: April 8, 2014
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

A futuristic blend of Beth Revis's Across the Universe and Lenore Appelhans's Level 2, Burn Out will satisfy the growing desire for science fiction with a thrilling story of survival, intrigue, and adventure. 

Most people want to save the world; seventeen-year-old Tora Reynolds just wants to get the hell off of it. One of the last survivors in Earth's final years, Tora yearns to escape the wasteland her planet has become after the sun turns "red giant," but discovers her fellow survivors are even more deadly than the hostile environment.

Holed up in an underground shelter, Tora is alone--her brilliant scientist father murdered, her mother and sister burned to death. She dreams of living on a planet with oceans, plants, and animals. Unfortunately, the oceans dried out ages ago, the only plants are giant cacti with deadly spines, and her pet, Trigger, is a gun--one of the bio-energetic weapons her father created for the government before his conscience kicked in. 

When family friend, Markus, arrives with mercenaries to take the weapons by force, Tora's fury turns to fear when government ships descend in an attempt to kill them all. She forges an unlikely alliance with Markus and his rag-tag group of raiders, including a smart but quiet soldier named James. 

She is shocked when James accidentally fires one of her father's bio-weapons--weapons designed to work only for her. She'd felt a strange pull to James from the start, but the odds of someone sharing her energy vibration are statistically minuscule. Tora must quickly figure out who she can trust, as she must choose between saving herself by giving up the guns or honoring her father's request to save humanity from the most lethal weapons in existence.

What I Liked:

I'm going to be brutally honest - ready for it? Well. I've had an ARC of this book since late JULY, you all. July 2013. I got an ARC from Egmont (thank you to both Egmont AND Kristi, who put in a good word for me), and I believe I was the first blogger to get an ARC. I knew I wasn't going to review this book until closer to the release date, but I wanted so badly to read it. Of course, right about that time, freshman year at Johns Hopkins hit me upside the head, and that's that.

So, I FINALLY read Burn Out, and I'm reviewing it, yay! I enjoyed this book, and while I had a few complaints, my overall impression was very positive! I'm quite happy with this debut, and will definitely be continuing the series. The story was pretty great, the characters were likable, and the science fiction was awesome!

Tora is alone on Earth. She's in an underground bunker that her scientist father built and moved her and her family into when he betrayed the government. You see, he built weapons for the government, really high-tech, highly destructive weapons, but he realized that it was too dangerous to give them to the government. So he took them and his family, and hid everything in the underground bunker. And then the sun starting expanding, and life on Earth basically ended. Tora's father's friend, Markus, comes back to Earth, and wants the weapons, which he'll give to the highest bidder. Things go pretty far downhill from there. Tora joins Markus and his group, with the weapons, and attempt to run from the government.

Not much happens in this book, to be honest, but I enjoyed what DID happen. Markus comes in search for the weapons. He leaves, and brings his thug friends back. Tora is forced to go with them, because the government shows up as well. The group gets away from the bunker, but they have to go back to get the supplies. Things get messy after that. I can't/won't tell you specifically, but betrayals run rampant in this book.

So the plot was pretty decent. I was never bored, and I wanted to know what was going to happen next. The writing style wasn't anything special, but it kept the flow of the story going, and it wasn't a hindrance. There is definitely a bit of mystery in this book, as to Tora's past, the colonized planet Caelia, and soon. I liked this! But I hope things will be revealed. 

The characters - I think I like most of them. At least, the ones that should be liked. Tora is very spunky and feisty, and I think it definitely fit her well. There are some inconsistencies in her character, in my opinion, but I liked her. Britta is probably the character with the most personality. She is extremely honest, and she lets everyone know her opinion of them. Kale was kind of one-dimensional to me, until the last part of the book, at least. Markus - well, I always liked him, even from the beginning. In the end, I felt really bad for him. James is tricky. I think I like him, yet I don't. It's not enough for Tora to like him for me to like him. He is shrouded in mystery and secrets, and I want to know more - but not necessarily because I like him. Alec joins us late in the game, and I REALLY like him.

So... romance? The entire book pushes us towards Tora and James. Heck, Tora's mindset pushes readers towards liking James, because she is definitely attracted to him, and she likes him. I'm not a huge fan of James, but really because I need to know more about him, and his motives. This book has no love triangle featured, but I could see how the author could slip one in. Please don't. ***Edited to add: the author personally told me that the series will not include a love triangle. WOOHOO FOR THAT!***

The science fiction in this book is pretty cool. The weapons themselves are awesome - they can only be used by Tora, because the weapons are programmed to her vibrations. So, only someone with EXACTLY her vibration patterns could use the weapons. Which is pretty much impossible. That's so much more secure than a fingerprint or something. The bunker is filled with all kinds of neat science-y tech, like the manner in which to get water (W.A.R.). And of course, this entire book is built on a catastrophic natural occurrence that mankind tried to divert. Apparently, humans shot an asteroid off course (it was heading towards Earth), but it went towards the sun. It had a lot of dark matter, and so when it went towards the sun, it caused the sun to expand (I can't remember the exact logistics, but I remember thinking that it was fascinating).

Have I convinced you yet? If you're into science fiction, you definitely do NOT want to miss this book. If you aren't a science fiction person, you should still check out this book, but don't get super excited like it's going to be the next big thing (that would be cool though). I'm glad I had the opportunity to read and review this book!

What I Did Not Like:

I think the only thing that really bothered me was the amount of questions I had, by the end of the book. They started about halfway though the book, and kept adding, right until the end. I'm a little confused about the end. Okay, so, two things - the questions, and a sub-dislike - the end.

But seriously though. I'm confused as to why Tora didn't keep vigilant the entire time. She let her guard down so often, which is kind of ridiculous, if she's supposed to be this kickbutt, non-trusting girl. Which she is, but I feel like she trusted Kale, Britta, and James too easily. I could understand why she would let her guard down around Markus - she was the most familiar with him, since she knew him from before - but not the others.

Also, towards the end, why didn't she just blast everyone? The TO does a really good job of getting rid of threats... so use it. Or something. I feel like there were a lot of times when Tora could have attacked, or threatened her enemies/captors with the TO, or have done SOMETHING, but she was caught too easily, or didn't fight back. Which doesn't make sense, with her personality. She isn't necessarily known for her brilliance, she's known for her spunky tenacity. So, the instinct to fight back should have won, all those times.

And the end. I'm confused. How did anyone survive? Isn't that one weapon supposed to destroy everything within a twenty-mile radius? EVERYTHING? Including ships and stuff? I'm confused as to how certain ships and PEOPLE survived. And I'm not talking about Tora herself.

But I'm hoping that things get cleared up in book two (or three, or one of the next books in the series).

Would I Recommend It:

To all the science fiction fans out there - especially the ones who LOVE space-related fiction, this one is not to be missed! The comparisons (Across the Universe and Level 2) are quite prestigious, and on point, if I may say so. Although I have not read Level 2 yet. I love my science fiction, and especially the futuristic space-related science fiction (Star Wars!), so this book was right up my alley. And it was fabulous!


3.5 stars -> rounded up to 4 stars. This book intrigued me! I cannot wait to read the subsequent novels in the series. Hopefully, all of my questions will be answered.

Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!


  1. It's been a while since I read BURN OUT, but I know I absolutely loved this novel!! I didn't really get upset about Tora letting her guard down. In fact, I could understand. For one, she's still just a teenager. And two, she's the last girl on Earth with no one around. And if it met survival, I think I would start tearing down some walls too.

    As to not everyone dying, they did mention mass causality at the end. The rest might've not be in range. Or maybe it's linked to that bio-signature thing Tora and James share. I don't know, but I loved the mystery still hanging in the air. I can't wait for book 2!

    1. That's a good point, Kelsey. At the same time, that would make me more vigilant - I wouldn't want to trust anyone.

      And see?! I don't know either! I think I would enjoy the mystery if I didn't feel like it was a hole in the story. If it were one of those things were you knew FOR CERTAIN that it would be explained in the next book(s), then maybe I would be less picky about it. But it felt like something that was glossed over, or written quickly.

      Thank you for the comment! I hope you (and I) love book two!

  2. I have to read this one for a blog tour coming up soon. Great review!

    1. Ooo, fun! I hope you love it! Thank you :)

  3. Hadn't heard of this one before, but it does sound interesting. I like the sound of the general idea/premise. But I also like answers...and dislike love triangles, so I'll probably wait and see where book 2 goes before trying it. Nice review!

    1. I'm glad to have introduced it to you! There is no love triangle, in case that wasn't clear, but there COULD be one.

      Thank you, Kel!

  4. I enjoy a good science fiction book, but I am not quite sure about this one, there are things I like but it seems there are too many nagging questions at the end, I hope also that it doesn't go into love triangle territory!

    1. There are good and bad things! But it's not the most AMAZING science fiction read out there. It's a very promising one though! And I really hope the author doesn't introduce a love triangle. Really, really hope.

  5. Hmmm, science fiction?? *ears perk up* The premise of a scorched Earth and running for your life sounds very intriguing, even if it seems that the action wasn't non-stop. And frankly hooray for being assured that there won't be a love triangle!!

    1. Yeah! It's pretty interesting! And no love indeed! Science fiction + no love triangle = two awesome things :D

  6. Questions do lead to more books and answers, which is fine, but only if they are indeed answered. So often the questions are left unanswered and I'm so frustrated I even bothered reading. Glad you liked this one, though I'll probably hold off until sequels are released.

    1. I totally agree, Vivien - I think the questions I had from the beginning to the end of this book needed to be answered. Waiting for the sequel is not a bad idea!


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