Red and his friends are students at Crest Academy, an institution whose seemingly only purpose is to train the soldiers of tomorrow in preparation for the inevitable end of the world, which is sure to come in the form of an alien ("Xenosite") invasion.
We follow Red through his final exam leading to graduation, a week-long trek through a monster-infested desert that will ultimately decide if he’s cut out to join WEAPON, a highly secretive super-soldier force that is tasked with the most perilous missions the star system has to offer.
The plot is fast-paced, moving from one challenge to the next with relatively smooth transitions and the characters each have their own distinct personalities (some more likeable than others).
By far the best thing about this book is the author’s unique talent for creating environments to test his characters. We have a metal desert, a glacial swamp, surreal underground caverns complete with dream-feasting crystals, and entire cities that hang in the clouds. The descriptions of these locales—and the interaction of the characters with them—really make this book worth the read all by itself. If you are one to get caught up in the adventure of “being there”, this book won’t disappoint.
The other gripe was the copy-edit, which started out rather clean and got progressively more typo-ridden and had more questionable grammar choices as the story went on. Too often this is what pulls down an otherwise great read.
The ending was rather abrupt, building to a cliffhanger to lead into future installments. This might turn off some readers as none of the plots feel resolved, sub or main. But if you can get past the errors and some questionable terminology, what you have is a well-told story in a well-crafted universe that leaves you interested in a second installment. It’s worth reading just for that.