Sunday, August 31, 2014

Citizen Sim: Cradle of the Stars by Michael Solana

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This review was written by: C and F
Received: Free electronic copy from the author
Publication Date of Book: May 2014
Pages: 220
Stars: (5/5)

Johnny Clark is your typical teenage boy...sort of.  He loves spending time on the computer (instead of going outside),  hanging out with his two friends, and skipping school every once in a while.  He may also occasionally be described as a slacker or chronic procrastinator, but he's still a great character.  His normalcy seems a constant until one day he wakes up and unexpectedly has knowledge of how to do things he never knew how to remotely perform before.  Suddenly, he becomes exceedingly skilled in math when he was flunking this subject as a freshman just the other year.  He's also having visions of Citizen Sim, a renowned hacker that has even taken down the major search engine Google for a period of time.  Every time Citizen Sim is about to strike, Johnny knows what he is going to do time and time again before he even does it.  Even stranger, Johnny has been constructing a peculiar device that he thinks about at night, waking up in the morning with the knowledge and nagging feeling to put this single device together. He knows that he's missing one piece of the puzzle in its construction, but the thoughts have stopped flowing to him.  That is until he figures out what he needs in math class, a lengthy code.  What does this device do?

Amidst his current troubles, Johnny confides in is friends, telling them about his invention and his issues with the visions of Citizen Sim.  Discouraged and yet not surprised that they think he's bluffing or crazy, he accepts that he is on his own.  To make matters worse, there are two very peculiar men lurking around his neighborhood with unknown intentions, Mr. Jetworth and Mr. Florence.  Little does he know, they might have a history of murder.

Problems continue to arise in young Johnny's life.  One simple example includes a very interesting event at school.  During his math class, everyone pauses what they are doing, literally frozen in place.  Confused, our protagonist watches as his peers suddenly disappear only to be replaced by several individuals he has never been acquainted with before, sharing only a short dialogue before the group is reduced to one innocent looking girl.  When Johnny approaches her, her face turns into an ugly demon like formation.  Suddenly, he is jolted awake in his math class where everything is normal again.  He didn't even know that he had fallen asleep.  What's reality and what's not?  Will Johnny ever figure out what's going on?

Citizen Sim was, simply put, a roller coaster ride of adventure, mystery, humor, suspense, and pure adrenaline.  We each ate this book up, excited for the next opportunity to read more and more of it.  Michael Solana's debut novel was absolutely amazing!  We loved, loved, loved the idea and the plot line.  We've read many books over the years and this one was so unlike and unique among the others that we've read.  Sure, it reminded us of the Matrix, but we loved it nonetheless.  We were glued to our seats, reading page after page, word for word.  (Sometimes, we may be caught skimming some of our books but not with this one!)

Solana's voice in Citizen Sim was brilliant.  We enjoyed every second of it.  Johnny was a fabulous character who we only grew to love more and more as the story progressed.  Every second, we wanted to know more about his world, his life.  We promise that the mystery will keep you flipping the pages until the ending is finally reached.  It was a whirlwind.  We particularly enjoyed the humor that was sneaked into the book.  At one point, Johnny was trying to program his device after he figured out the coding that he needed.  It was at this time that his life was in danger and he had to no where to go and nothing to do but try to finish his creation so that he could save himself.  However, he didn't exactly understand how to program it:

"Five plus twelve over weird triangle thing," said Johnny as he touched numbers and glyphs on the center disk, "swiggle thing, swiggle thing, nineteen slash star...where's the star?  Crap where's the-star!  Nine, five, seventeen..."

We highly recommend this book.  It started off with a bang and kept going, sucking you in before you even knew what was happening.  The story and the characters were ultimately appealing, as well.  If you're looking for a book in the science fiction/fantasy genre or one that will mess with your head, this is definitely for you.  Solana did a great job in creating a masterpiece that we will not be forgetting anytime soon!

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