SYLO, by D.J. MacHale (2013)

Check out my review policy for a few disclaimers before proceeding.

Content Warning: Swearing, people and children dying in divers horrible ways.

I’m of mixed feelings about this book.

I was a fan of the author’s earlier, bestselling the Pendragon Adventure, except for the last book. So I picked up this one with mild trepidation, given additionally as I am not a fan of thrillers. Nevertheless, D.J. MacHale’s status as a bestselling author is deserved, and I found myself enjoying it. Somewhat.

The plot is difficult to describe, consisting of several disparate threads, all set (for almost all of the book), on a island off the coast of Maine called Pemberwick. One thread is the (ab)use of a steroid on steroids called the Ruby, which gives the user superhuman athletic powers at the potential danger of insanity and death. Another thread is the eponymous SYLO, a secret naval organization which invades and quarantines Pemberwick Island, under pretenses soon shown to be false. Another is UFOs. Another is the romantic failings of Tucker Pierce, the main character. The characters themselves are equally puzzled as the reader as to the convergence of all this.

There is some amount of consequentialism (the end justifying the means)in this book, which is to be expected in about any modern American novel. The use of the Ruby is said to be immoral, but Tucker uses it anyway for the sake of the Good Guys at one point (with mixed results). Then again, MacHale has sometimes written of the consequences of consequentialism (when breaking the rules turns out to be a Bad Thing in the Pendragon Adventure), which is better than many authors can say.

All that said, it’s a decent book. I give it one Least Bittern of confused but positive neutrality.