Thursday, 29 September 2016

Swarm by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, and Deborah Biancotti

Swarm (Zeroes #2) by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti
Published October 27, 2016 by Allen & Unwin
Source: the publisher
Rating: 4 stars

From the blurb: It's the holiday season, but the celebration at the Zeroes's underground nightclub is blown apart when two strangers with new powers take to the dance floor. The Zeroes pursue them, only to discover that they're fleeing an even more sinister power-wielder, Swarm. The Zeroes must learn all they can about this dangerous new player if they are to stay safe.
Meanwhile each of the Zeroes also has their own issues to deal with. Bellwether's confidence is challenged, and Mob questions the nature of her power. Crash's conscience gets a workout, and Anon and Scam face harsh truths about belonging. And it's up to Flicker to pick up the reins and lead the Zeroes into a terrifying showdown.

Swarm, the second book in the Zeroes series, picks up six months after the events of Zeroes, also referred to as "the Summer of Suck" by Ethan Cooper, aka Scam. The team, still led by Nate Saldana, aka Bellwether, have started a night club ("technically it's more of a private party") so they can experiment with their powers and have a place to retreat to. Ethan's job is wrangling a crowd and it's on a party night that he accidentally invites two new Zeroes to their club and take a turn for the worse.

The Zeroes series is a unique take on the idea of superheroes, featuring teenagers with powers that aren't always useful or predictable. As well as Ethan and Nate, we have Riley Phillips, aka Flicker, Chizara Okeke, aka Crash, Thibault Durant, aka Anonymous, and newcomer Kelsie Laszlo, aka Mob.

Just like in book one, the management of the six main characters was perfectly done. Each of them have strong personalities and they were all pushed to learn about themselves, discovering aspects of their personalities they disliked or wanted to change. Kelsie is happy to finally belong, but worries that deep down she's evil. Ethan feels unworthy of love. Nate isn't in control as much as he thought he was. Crash can't always behave how her mother would want her to. Thibault fears he's making his family upset, and Flicker can't force people to remember Thibault. Along with these self-discoveries, they've also developed their powers and learnt to work together.

It was lovely to see Flicker and Thibault as a couple, and to watch romance develop for some of the other characters, even when they couldn't see it for themselves. The addition of new Zeroes expanded their world and showed that this goes beyond their town.

There was a darker, gory element to this instalment which surprised me because their world seems so much like ours, but it's also very different. It's a place where super powers exist and they can be used to turn people against each other, to make them commit atrocious acts. In thinking back to Zeroes, there was a similar element, but Swarm takes it further. There wasn't a lot of time for the characters to contemplate their actions, but they were aware of the horror they were contributing to.

The pacing, like in book one, was spot on. It was fast but never rushed, allowing the action to be spread out over the course of the story, with a dramatic ending I did not see coming. It will be a great place to pick up on in the final book.

Swarm is an excellent follow up to Zeroes. Fans of the series will enjoy being reunited with the team, and the higher stakes make this a thrilling read.

Ableist language: crazy, psycho, lame, dumb, insane.

Thank you to Allen & Unwin for my copy. RRP A$19.99.

Cover designer: Astred Hicks, Design Cherry

I did nails to match the cover of Zeroes, so of course I had to nails to match Swarm. I started with a base of pale grey polish (the brand is Strange Beautiful but the colour is unnamed). 

I sponged Zoya Freja and Ulta3 Black Satin around the edges.

I used acrylic paint to paint the 0, the chain-link fence and the paint splatters.

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