My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Thumbnail: a solid, engagingly written entry into the YA dystopian arena, well worth a look.
Aqua has the feel of the best Heinlein juveniles, where personal courage, teamwork, and science win the day. It has interesting scientific and societal underpinnings, and action-driven plot, and a cast of liable and hate-able characters. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a fresh new SF voice or a series that promotes a positive outlook towards science and problem-solving the way to a better future.
The descriptions are sharp, the world is intriguing, the protagonist is brave and bold but not perfect, and the supporting cast fall into easily recognized archetypes without hitting any big red stereotype buttons. Formatting concerns and some discomfort with the premise prevent me giving it four stars. I enjoyed the character interplay enough for 3.5 stars, which would round up to 4, but presentation affects my enjoyment. The layout had serious issues, and as the plot advanced, the science got murky and puzzling.
I read Aqua soon after the ebook was released on Amazon, so there’s hope the formatting has already been addressed, but I can only review what I saw. And the scientific development issues aren’t going to bug most people as much as they did me. In books I prefer either full hard explanation or hand-wavy acceptance, and this one fell in the gap between.
There are lots of explanations, and certain technologies are critical to plot, but..well. To avoid throwing spoilers in the mix, I’ll say only that some advances were so far ahead of others that it felt like the implications either not considered, or not explained away enough to help me dismiss them. That might seem minor, but it jars me out of the narrative when I can immediately see applications for something that would totally change the society that came up with it.
Entertainment mileage will likely vary based on reader tolerance for (1) formatting oddities like random changes in line spacing and paragraph structure and (2) cinematic presentation of science in their science fiction. Last but not least: cliffhanger alert.
In summation: I liked Aqua, I can recommend it to certain audiences (and I will grab the next one because I’m hooked) but it didn’t fully satisfy me as much as I think future books by the writer will.