Series: Origin (Companion)
Released: January 14th, 2014
Rating: 4 stars
Word Rating: Fun fun fun
Reviewed by: Blythe
On a remote island in the Pacific, Corpus scientists have taken test tube embryos and given them life. These beings—the Vitros—have knowledge and abilities most humans can only dream of. But they also have one enormous flaw.
Sophie Crue is determined to get to Skin Island and find her mother, a scientist who left Sophie behind years ago. She enlists hunky charter pilot Jim Julien to take her there. But once on the island, Sophie and Jim encounter more than they bargained for, including a charming, brilliant Vitro named Nicholas and an innocent, newly awoken one named Lux.
In a race for their lives, Sophie and Jim are about to discover what happens when science stretches too far beyond its reach.
Vitro has pretty much all the key components necessary for a really fun and awesome action/adventure hit: we start with the setting and atmosphere of the creepy desert island (by the name of Skin Island, no less), which Jessica Khoury nails; then there's the handful of interesting conspiracies and twists, and behind it all, a villain whose motives are entirely believable (which makes everything even more spine-tingling). All of this, and more, make Vitro a really fun, action-packed read.
However, like most action/adventure hits, suspension of disbelief may just be necessary for you to enjoy this novel. Off the top of my head, I can think of a bunch of nagging questions and holes that could have kept me from enjoying Vitro as much as I did. But for the most part, you're going to have to roll with what you're given in regards to explanations that may not entirely make sense (but most of them really do make a lot of sense, and are really quite clever, especially towards the end).
Also like most action/adventure books and movies, character development is not exactly Vitro's forte. Since it's written in third person, and we're thrown into the action fairly soon, we don't really get to know the characters for who they really are until later on. As the novel progressed I found that I was more invested in the relationships of the characters than the characters themselves--at least in regards to the main character, Sophie, with whom I never truly connected. Sophie is stubborn (but not in a bad way, necessarily) and is willing to do anything to prove herself to the mother who had left her; and although I did find her likable as a whole, I can't say I came out of this novel knowing much about her other than those two points above, really. I just feel like she could have been so much more.
The same goes for the other main character, Jim, except to an admittedly much lesser extent. With Jim, what we know is that he's charming, willing to help anyone he cares for, but is also pretty damaged by his relationships with his parents. I hadn't really connected with Jim until about three quarters through the novel, when he had an entire chapter focused on how largely he was affected by the abandonment of his mother (not a spoiler), and his entire stance on how he viewed love. It was a very powerful chapter for me, and added a great layer of depth to his character that was not there before.
The next character in the novel would have to be my favorite, but unfortunately, there isn't much I can say about her without spoiling some pretty crucial stuff for you all. But, what I can say is that her name is Lux, and she is a Vitro. Since I don't know what to disclose about Vitros and what not to disclose, I'm just going to say nothing in particular and tiptoe carefully around what I loved about her perspective. A big conflict in this novel is in regards to humanity, and how much of it Vitros actually have, so I loved that Jessica Khoury included chapters from a Vitro's perspective into the novel. It made me understand the mental state of Vitros much more than I would have without Lux's chapters, and made many things more emotional for me as the novel progressed. Also, Lux is just an adorable character, so that obviously helped.
Now, to the aspects of Vitro that were especially awesome, because I spent far longer than planned discussing characters and this review is getting far too long. As I mentioned earlier, Jessica Khoury really nails the atmosphere of Skin Island; her writing style is sharp and vivid, and the imagery of the tropics was brilliant. The twists were well thought out and executed, and although one was extremely predictable, the others took me by surprise and each added something genuinely unique to the story. I loved that the novel was split into three perspectives--Sophie's, Jim's, and Lux's--as they were all at different locations on the island, dealing with different people and situations. It provided me with a full scope of what was going on around the island, as opposed to the one-sided knowledge I would have had if it were told by, say, just Sophie's perspective. The action scenes are really well-written and thrilling, and some were even heart-wrenching by the end.
Like all great action/adventure books and movies, Vitro was virtually unputdownable for me. Despite its rough start, and some issues with characterization, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and there are some things about it that I think might stick with me for a bit. With Vitro, Jessica Khoury manages to balance fun action and adventure with some pressing questions concerning science and morality, which really struck home with me and added something fairly complex and intellectual to the novel; with that having been said, Vitro has nearly everything necessary for a fun, quick read with some interesting questions to pressing issues, and I highly recommend it for readers looking for their next escapism read.
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