Author: Kashif Ross
Genre: Fantasy | Young Adult
Release Date: February 4th, 2012
Disclaimer: I received a free copy from the author to read. It has had minimal impact on my feelings for it, but yes, I am somewhat emotionally influenced by that fact. Full disclosure here. Stop reading now if you have problems with that.
First of all, I'm going to say that this story had a great concept and was unique, at least in my book.
The first issue I had with the book was the numerous errors that I found (without actually looking for them) in the first 15% of the book. The first one is surprisingly on the first page itself, in the warning."WARNING: This book contains sarcasm that may offend people, a charater driven story." Or the one on page 38: "You were always sharing your senses with me and othes". This is a problem that certain indie published ebooks have in common. It's probably not just limited to this book alone but I was 100% honestly not searching for errors. I just happened to come across it like a guy tripping over an obstacle in the dark. Once that happened, I obviously became more sensitive and aware of further errors, which I've highlighted and emailed to the author for correction upon his request.
Now, let's proceed to my critique of the story itself. I had a lot problems with the way the story was written especially the first 30% of the book, which frankly was so confusing at times that I went back a few pages to try to understand what was happening and wondering if I had missed a scene. The most prominent example is the one where Kode breaks his "cement healing pack" and wanders around the hospital, spooking a nurse and then Spencer and Michelle finally find him showering...and that's it. The Chapter ends there. See what I mean by confusing as hell?
I was on Kashif's blog yesterday checking up on his release date and Smashwords availability of his second book when I noticed a 'event timeline' of his first work, Barcode: Legend of Apollo. I noticed that he previously had problems with the whole reader comprehension bit of the book. He even mentioned being extremely frustrated with it after asking his editor to give her honest opinion regarding the shortcomings of the book. Frankly, I think he managed to fix it somewhat with the subsequent edits but the problem is still there. It may have been reduced but I had a hell of a hard time wrapping my head around it. It's not a big part of the book, it's just random scenes every once in a while like my last example that make you go; "WTF".
Another minor issue I have is the lack of emotion/responsibility. Spencer found that Kode is messing around with the school and possibly endangering everyone's life but what does he do? He wants to handle it personally. While it may fit in with his tough guy personality, I find it baffling that with another incident (where hundreds of people were secretly massacred in the city) he also didn't feel the need to...I dunno, REPORT IT TO ANYONE. I mean that's the typical response of most everyone, to tell someone about it so they can handle the problem. But no, he acts like it's all normal. Again, the character driven not plot line comes to mind. The fact that Spencer is an arrogant prick could be the reason behind it.
Oh, the dialogue could also use a bit of work. The immature brat, pest...etc etc, constant name calling between Spencer and Michelle at the very beginning nearly put me off the book. I found it to be extremely annoying to read especially when 19 year olds are doing it to each other. It got to the point where I found it to be forced rather than coming off as natural. On the other hand the cute way Michelle used Spencer as her personal body carrier by climbing onto his back and him walking around with her still attached was one of my favorite parts of the book.
Now for the good bits. Despite all the shortcomings I still liked reading the book. It gets a lot better after the first third of the book. You can definitely tell that Kashif had managed to get over the initial slump that new authors seem to have when starting their books (oh and did I mention that this is his first published work?), he manages to work out the kinks and writes a pretty smooth story that was enjoyable to read and had plenty of action. I've always loved fantasy reads involving a new mashup of ancient mythology with modern or futuristic elements (The Percy Jackson Effect <3). This book has both. Powerful new tech and abilities powered by Barcodes (tattoos) connected directly to the source (aka God Power). The Gladiators are super-humans who are linked to the Gods and can harness part of their power, but like in Real Life, not everyone has the same level of ability. There are those God-level people who can channel most of their deity's powers and under them you have the Demigods and then you have the Apes (derogatory term for human gladiators with minimal barcodes) at the bottom of the pyramid.
The ending was....woah. Emotional overload and potentially spoiler worthy so I can't elaborate much, but it is shocking. I definitely did not expect that to happen.
I understand that this book is a character driven but you can't neglect the plot. If possible you need both to make it an AWESOME and therefore marketable read. If it's really great, then word of mouth will help spread your books. It's especially important for indie authors to get exposure. Word of mouth has been and will probably always will be one of the best ways to get marketed. The first third of the book, while kind of rough around the edges, still didn't take away from the fact that this is a decently good read. You'll enjoy Barcode: Legend of Apollo if you like YA action-oriented reads. I'll be buying the Cavern of Youth later this month.Scores:
Overall: 5.5/10 (3 Stars)
Comment: To be honest, I first thought this was gonna in manga form from the author interview I read (where Bleach was mentioned by the author and how he wanted to one-up that series) and from the cover itself.