Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A Book Review of the Hive by John W. Otte

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A pregnant cyborg and a teenage boy fight against intergalactic governments to protect the unborn in this novel from a Christy Award-nominated author.

Why is Zain pregnant? She belongs to the Hive, a collective of cyborgs who choose to live apart from the rest of human society. At times, the Hive rent out some of their females to produce tailor-made children for paying couples. But Zain is an engineer, not a breeder. When she finds herself separated from the Hive, she decides to find the person who she thinks ordered the baby. Surely they'll help her find her way home.

Matthew "Scorn" Nelson has spent the better part of his teenage years cracking computer systems, causing mischief and havoc wherever he can. But the night of his greatest triumph turned into a painful memory, one he wants to erase. But that night was also his first step on a road to faith. When Zain arrives on his doorstep, Scorn is horrified. What's he supposed to do with a pregnant teenage cyborg?

Unfortunately, he'll have to answer that question on the run. Zain's people want to reclaim her and terminate her pregnancy. And both the Ministrix and the Praesidium, two intergalactic governments in a constant state of cold war, want Zain's baby for their own reasons. Will their enemies run them down? Or will Zain find a new Hive for both her and her child?

Genre: YA Science-Fiction Space Opera
Enclave Publishing (October 16, 2015)
Page Count: 328

I very much enjoyed John W. Otte's Failstate series, so when I saw the Hive was releasing I know I wanted to read it. The whole concept intrigued me. I ended up receiving this book for my birthday and I finally have gotten to read it. I'm normally not a fan of standalones, but this is a very good story that tackles some hard subjects. 

The Plot: As the synopsis states this book has dual point of views of two very different people faced with very big problems such as crime and a teen pregnancy. This story is full of space travel and fun technology with a lot of suspense. The end is loaded with twists just wow. I was hooked all the way through.

The Characters: Zain is a very interesting main character since she is human but only half so since she's a cyborg. She also is part of the Hive which is a very reclusive group of people who are connected telepathically, so she often struggles with loneliness, dependence, and naivety. Her character arch is so great though. She has to be my favorite character.

Matt is the child of rich parents and he is obsessed with hacking with his implants that allow him to access the virtual world. He also is burdened with regret from the things he's done, but he has the determination to seek for redemption. He also is a budding Christian which is an interesting part of his character as well.

Other characters such as the Revered Hand, Harrison Fowler, the Positon Matriarchs, Jim, Drew, and Trent are also interesting characters. Though the story doesn't have a set antagonist several of the character listed above prove as worthy obstacles for our main characters. I also particularly enjoyed Hopkins, Matt's AI butler. A little Jarvis there. ;)

The Setting:
Since this is a space opera there's a lot of space travel involved much of the characters' time is spent on ships as opposed to the actual planets. The planets weren't anything to write home about, but the intricacy of the ships was very interesting since I got to explore it through the eyes of Zain who is an engineer. 

The coolest setting is the virtual world. I love how Otte interpreted computer lang such as daemons, worms, viruses, and Trojan Horses into visual things. As someone who grew up with a mother who's very good with computers I was elated at this. 

Epic Things: Cyborgs with arms that turn into maces is pretty epic.

The Theme: I really liked the theme for this story. I've never seen it addressed in a story before. The theme is about not isolating ourselves from the world, but being salt and light. I know a lot of Christians who have isolated themselves from the rest of the world in fear of being corrupted just like the Hive do. But how can we minister to others if we don't reach out to them? 

"You can't be salt and light if you remain hidden, yes?"
~Zain from the Hive by John W. Otte
Content Cautions: There is some violence and some people threaten to abort Zain's baby or to basically turn her into a prostitute. Matt thinks of Zain a bit sexually at times.

What We Can Take Away For Our Writing:

1.) Having a Character Who Starts Out Not Having a Name Worked -
At the beginning of the story Zain doesn't have a name. She's just a part of the Hive, so for the first few pages she's just referred to as "she." This worked because she was alone and no one else was around. Were other "shes" around this would be more complicated, but Otte does a good job at starting out with a character who has no name and then quickly giving her a name within five pages before anyone else shows up.

How this can be applied to writing: Sometimes one has a character who doesn't have a name be it because she was never given one like Zain or they don't remember their name. This can be tricky to write, but possible. I suggest reading this book for that if you find yourself writing such a character.

2.) Honest Praying Worked - In secular media, most of the time whenever a character prayers it's either the Lord's Prayer (which isn't bad, but also isn't how any Christians I've ever been around pray most of the time) or extremely stiff and awkward (such as in Gordy). Rarely, do I find an exception to that rule (Because of Winn Dixie). Though the Hive is CBA, I'd say that John W. Otte does an exceptionally good job at having his characters pray with honesty even within CBA. His characters pray so sincerely and genuinely and they sound like the prayers I've grown up hearing, not cheesy ones from low budget Christian 90s TV shows. Here's an excerpt:

"God, I don't know what to say. You know what's going on here. I'm at a complete loss. I know I messed up big time, both back when I was in the Hive and now here. I just ... I don't know what to do. I need help. Please." Matt in the Hive by John W. Otte

How this can be applied to writing: If you are writing a Christian character please let them pray authentically. The prayers are so much more powerful that way. If you need more information about writing a Christian character check out my post about it.

3.) Multiple Perspectives on a Subject Worked - Another one of my favorite parts of this book is the four perspectives on religion. Many of the people in the story don't have an opinion about religion. Then there are the extremes such as the Praesdium which through methods such as the Toleration Act wish to suppress religion because they think it's unnecessary and dangerous while on the other hand the Ministrix take religion too far and want to force it on people. Then there are people like Matt who want to be Christians like God intended. All of these different perspectives allow different viewpoints to be exercised.

How this can be applied to writing: It's a natural thing for people to have different viewpoints on a matter. Showing this in a story adds another sense of realism and allows the readers to draw opinions for themselves.

4.) Over-describing Familiar Characters Eh Didn't Work Too Well - There was one spot on page 37 where I feel like I should make a note about. In this section Matt sees his friends for the first time in the book and then proceeds to go into a lengthy description of said friends. He sees these friends often so the long description felt unnecessary. I've been taught that going into too long descriptions of someone so familiar can often feel unnatural and it did in this instance.

How this can be applied to writing: This is a common problem when we really want to describe something. How do we make this more natural? Point out things different on the character that the POV character would notice and that would naturally draw attention to what needs to be described such as a new haircut or a new sticker on a laptop or something of the like.

Conclusion: I really enjoyed this book. It had a good theme and a fun concept. Four stars!

About the Author:
John W. Otte leads a double life. By day, he's a Lutheran minister. He graduated from Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota, with a theatre major and then from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. By night, he writes weird stories. He lives in South St. Paul, MN, with his wife and two sons. Find him on his website, Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter!

Other Books by this author I've reviewed:
Failstate: Nemesis

If you liked this post, come back every other Tuesday for book reviews; Friday for tags, character interviews, and link-ups; Saturdays for writing advice and life updates; and Sundays for the Writerly Bundle which includes a new soundtrack piece, vocabulary word, and tea review!

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