Review of Gen One by Amy Bartelloni

Generations after robots conquered Earth, the remaining population survives in the ash of their defeat. Within their walls in Authority City, bots test and develop super soldiers. Rumors of horrible experiments are enough to keep humans in line. At least, most humans.
Eighteen-year-old Delilah O’Connor scavenges the ruins with her friend Zane, and Gen, a generation one bot they repaired off the grid. Gen’s curiosity gives Delilah hope for the future, but not enough hope to go against the Authority. She finds Zane’s dreams of a human resistance pointless, and it’s enough to keep their on-and-off relationship mostly off.
When they discover two dead guards in a shady trading stop known as the Banks, everything changes. Framed for the murders and pursued by Authority bots, Zane takes Delilah to the only safe space he knows—the headquarters for the Human Coalition. Even there Zane isn’t safe. When he’s captured, Delilah and Gen must join an unlikely alliance of bot and human to go in to Authority City and save him before he becomes another casualty. Things in Authority City aren’t as they seem, they’re worse. And Delilah might lose more than her friend within its walls.

I had read Andromeda by Amy Bartelloni a couple of months ago and I absolutely loved it so I was excited to receive an ARC of Gen One as the blurb sounded right up my street.  A post apocalyptic world, a war with robots and a cat and mouse style.  I have however, found this a really hard review to try and put together.  Firstly though, the world created by the author is phenomenal, a true dystopian hell for the survivors.  The backdrop of the Rez and the Banks had an almost Clockwork Orange feel to it, hardly a home with little to get by on and the constant threat of capture and punishment. The stories of Authority City are told as tales to keep younger children in line, never quite sure of the truth behind the tales – but the threat of it is enough. For me each scene played out in an almost cinematic way it, it really felt like a film playing out in my mind at times.  One thing this story has is that there is never a chance to breathe in the writing, every scene has something going on; be it important information or an action packed sequence. The world created is truly bleak and horrifying at times, don’t be fooled by the upper YA tag, this story has some big shocks along the way.  The ending, without wanting to give things away, is nothing short of cataclysmic….

So why have I found it a hard review?  You may have noticed that above I have focused on the world building and that is because I have to say that I really struggled to connect with the characters. In my opinion, I felt like I was thrown into a story part way through where characters had already been established and because each page is so action packed I never really got the chance to get to know what makes each of them tick. I have seen a couple of reviews which indicated that this is a series, I have to say that I’m not sure where that came from – I read this story very much as a stand alone and to me that fits in with the way things pan out.  If I’m right in this, then it seems that there was just perhaps too much content to fit into one book.  We had so much to go through with what the characters were doing we didn’t get much of a chance to get to know them and to develop that relationship with them.  This is a real shame as I felt that much more could have been made of the friendship between Delilah and Gen, and given the books title I would have thought Gen would have got a lot more time on the page than she did. I felt the character I connected most to was in fact Brute, time was taken to show the changes within him and his back story was via a trickle of information that really helped settle his character in.

The romantic element is rightly played down, it’s there, but it isn’t in a context that would be unbelievable in a situation wrought with the peril that they are in.  I found this a really refreshing move by the author as often a romantic element can feel in poor taste if the surrounding situation makes that type of interaction unlikely.

I have taken a bit of time to sit back and consider my rating, because ultimately Gen One is a phenomenal story with fantastic world building and had I connected with the characters it would have been a 5* for sure, but in fairness I think this is a 4* read for me.

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