What happens when a single moment changes everything? For seventeen-year-old Cheney, life on earth exists only in history books. The life he and over one thousand other people know is aboard the Plexus spacecraft: self-contained, systematic, and serene. But that was before the radiation wave.
Now Plexus has suddenly turned on them, becoming a terrifying and unrecognizable force. As the crew dwindles under attack, Cheney and his friends need to fight back before the ship that's nurtured them for so long becomes responsible for their destruction.
Imagine, if you will; you have lived your life in complete confinement, in a spacecraft with no windows and no "real" air. You have never seen a cloud or touched an animal. You have never felt the cold of winter or the humidity of summer. You rely on this ship. Without it, there is no life to speak of. And one day, this ship turns on you. And there is nothing else but endless space.
Oh shit, right?
Yeah, so thats whats going down with Cheney. His perfect tranquility and seemingly unfallible home is shattered by a stupid-ass radiation cloud. And the ship...it goes off. Not like a little electrical issues, I mean shit gets up and shoots people IN THE FACE. I mean, imagine a tree walking around, capping a bitch. That's what its like for Cheney and his friends. He has to hide from the walls around him, plus protect all the younger kids, PLUS try to save his family, PLUS he has this crush on this chick...its a whole mess of problems. And, lemme tell you, I loved it.
The thought of Plexus itself, the aforementioned self-contained spacecraft that turns on its inhabitants, is not nearly as interesting as the thought that mankind would be forced to create such a machine to begin with. Further mystery introduces itself when its revealed that they had once had contact with Earth, a connection lost years before. In fact, the entire novel is coated in mystery. But then again, what decent sci-fi isn't?
There's kind of an information dump taking up most of the first half and a good quarter of the second, with Cheney's sensible and rather unattached narrative letting the reader know just how commonplace it is for a boy his age living in space to know about telecommunications. It got pretty bland at times, listening to all this rambling (albeit well researched) techspeak. Though is did a pleasent job creating the world of Plexus, I can't imagine it'd convert any new sci-fi fans into the genre.
While the plot shines, too many of the characters stutter and die. The scatter-brained yet bordering genius love interest did nothing for me, even as the young crew have to band together to save their asses from the fucking floor. Which is a bad sign, considering anyone can seem like an interesting character in such a situation. The younger kids, including one rebellious little brat who turns out to be the Unlikely Voice of Reason, resonate more with both Cheney and myself, reminding me just a little of those Young Kids v. Monster books that every one of us secretly adores (i.e. It, Lord of the Flies, etc.)
Despite some sloppily done romantic elements and adequete familial bonds, Living Hell does its sci-fi tag justice with intriguing technology at work that science enthusiasts will probably scoff at but anyone with half an imagination will revel in. A decent character read and outstanding modern space epic, Catherine Jinks continues her hold over the Kids Kicking Ass title she so rightly deserves.
Rating: 7 out of 10