Book Review: Revolution 19 by Gregg Rosenblum

Revolution 19Revolution 19
Gregg Rosenblum
HarperTeen, January 2013
ISBN 978-0-06-212595-8

From the publisher—

Twenty years ago, the robots designed to fight our wars abandoned the battlefields. Then they turned their weapons on us.

Headstrong seventeen-year-old Nick has spent his whole life in a community in the wilderness, hiding out from the robots that have enslaved mankind. But when the bots discover the community’s location, he, his tech-geek younger brother, Kevin, and adopted sister, Cass, barely make it out alive—only to discover that their home has been destroyed and everyone they love is missing.

All survivors were captured and taken to one of the robots’ Cities. The siblings have been hearing tales about the Cities all their lives—humans are treated like animals, living in outdoor pens and forced to build new bots until they drop dead from exhaustion. Determined to find out if their parents are among the survivors, Nick, Kevin, and Cass venture into the heart of the City, but it is nothing like they’ve been told.

As they live among the bots for the first time, they realize they’re fighting for more than just their family. The robots have ruled for too long, and now it’s time for a revolution.

The premise of this first in a series (trilogy?) was so appealing that I practically begged the publisher for the e-galley. It isn’t often we find good science fiction that centers on robots and, making it even more attractive to me, this one is young adult post-apocalyptic and dystopian.

Don’t get me started on the definitions of those two subgenres because the argument could go on endlessly. Suffice it to say that I distinguish between the two as follows: post-apocalyptic means that the world has changed drastically due to a wide-scale life-threatening event that can be a natural disaster, a massive war, a pandemic, an alien invasion, etc., while dystopian refers to the very undesirable controlled society that comes into existence following something that dramatically changes the world as we know it. The two can co-exist in the same story or the story can focus on one or the other but dystopia does not necessarily follow an apocalyptic event nor does such an event necessarily result in a dystopian society.

But I digress. The point I want to make is that Revolution 19 is certainly dystopian and seems to be post-apocalyptic but, in this first novel, we don’t really learn enough to be sure of that. That lack of worldbuilding is a big part of why I felt this book just did not reach its full potential. The other major difficulty I had was with the main characters. Put simply, I didn’t care much for any of them and didn’t find them or their actions very believable. They do really dumb things and I was wondering why they were so shallow and why the scenes changed so quickly, allowing no time or content that would allow the reader to come to know and understand these teens and their elders—and then I figured it out.

This story was created by an entertainment company and then developed into a novel and that is exactly why it doesn’t “feel” like the really good books of this sort—it reads like a movie or a TV show. There’s no depth to it and, thus, very little worldbuilding or character development. What a disappointment! Somebody had a great idea but…

Oh, and by the way, the central character is 17-year-old Nick and he is the one who is given a robotic eye so why is a girl featured on the cover?

I won’t say this is a terrible book because it isn’t; it’s just very weak. I think the next book could make up for a lot of this one’s shortcomings if the author will take to heart some of the things reviewers are saying. There are reasons the majority of those reviewers are not raving about what a wonderful book this is but the next book could save the series.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2013.