**This review was originally published at teenreads.com **
“This is what life should be like, he thought. Your heart beating, your skin tingling, your mind bright and alive as you run headlong toward a future. Towards answers. Not death, after death, after death…”
In a clever twist on dystopian story telling, Zach Hines shows us a present day alternative world remarkably similar to our own in his debut novel NINE.
Hundreds of years ago, in an Earth of a different dimension, a comet crashed into the planet, altering the atmosphere. When the fallout cleared, humans were irrevocably altered, having nine lives instead of just one.
Fast forward to the present day and society has adapted to their nine lives. Needing to organize structure and optimize the population, each death you go through equals physical and mental upgrades. Not to mention societal benefits as well.
Julian doesn’t want to burn through his lives. Having watched his mother deteriorate too quickly before reaching permadeath, he has no desire to go through the rebirth process. Or risk the rebirth sickness. But there’s a price to pay for staying a One. Ones cannot go to college, hold jobs, get married. You must be on an appropriate life number to move ahead.
Finding himself the target of The Burners, the school’s suicide club, Julian realizes that society won’t allow him to remain a One. Finally relenting, Julian’s death begins to uncover holes in the system and offers him the chance to find out what really happened with his mother. They’ve been told death leads to better lives. But what if they’ve been lied to?
NINE is an amazing ride! I love how Hines gives us a fresh twist on the dystopian world by giving us not a world set in the future, but one in an alternate dimension. Even though the world is by and large recognizable to our own, it is very different. Hines fluently weaves the nuanced differences into the story telling in such a way that the reader is fully submersed into this new world with ease.
One of my absolute favorite things about this novel is how creative the discussion of power and control is. Without giving anything away, I thought it was fascinating and very realistic how the wealthy would ensure that even extra lives would be manipulated to exert their control over the poor. The truth that Julian uncovers is a chilling and brilliant plot twist that still hasn’t left me.
For avid readers of science fiction, there are a few plot holes that may pull the reader out of the story. This is a complicated world, and while Hines does an excellent job presenting the details to us, it does have a few gaps that may stand out. For me, the writing was solid and the story had me so enthralled, that while I questioned the holes as I came across them, they didn’t detract from the overall reading experience.
I will caution that this is a story where death is glorified and glamorized. There are scenes describing suicide and other violent deaths that may be too much for sensitive readers. They are frequent, and they are intense.
In all, this is an excellent debut novel that is unique and powerful. This world is incredibly realistic filled with characters that are well developed. NINE will appeal to dystopian readers and fans of science fiction. I would highly recommend this book and cannot wait for more from Hines.
Thank you TeenReads for sending me a copy for review!!!