Friday 14 May 2021


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The Loop by Ben Oliver     {Reviewed by STELLA}
With its stunning jacket design and the intriguing plot, The Loop, the first in Ben Oliver's trilogy, is a fast-paced sci-fi thriller for teens. Not only is the unwinding story compelling, and the mysterious experiments on the populace mind-bending, but there is also plenty of emotional heft too, with its diverse characters, developing relationships and consequential situations. Decisions may need to be made which could prove fatal. It’s Luka Kane’s birthday. He’s sixteen and he’s been in The Loop (a high-security prison) for almost two years, his daily companion—a computer AI called Happy (Happy also just happens to be a corporation). Apart from one hour of outdoor exercise (where he can hear the other inmates—they are walled off from each other) and the warden—a young woman who looks out for the ‘safe’ inmates and gives Luka books, the days are endless (that is until you go to The Block). Every six months you can delay your death sentence by letting scientists and doctors experiment on you and every night your energy is harvested to power The Loop. When the systems start to go haywire, the guards start behaving oddly and all the inmates are called up for an extra Delay, and The Loop starts to heat up. Getting out of The Loop might have been every inmate's dream, but outside the facility the city is in chaos and the leading men are up to something strange. Luka sets out with a handful of the other inmates intent on finding his family and untangling the mystery at the heart of the latest experiment. He has been genetically altered, but how and why are the big questions. The city has been attacked, the rebels from the Red Zone are coming and the inhabitants, some of them Regulars and other Alts (modified), are pitching a vicious battle where nothing makes sense. As the teens return to the city they are confronted by zombie-like people intent on murder. A disease has infected them, but not all are affected. Why are some people immune? And what was the purpose of this experiment? And that’s not the only problem—they are also on the government’s 'wanted' list, and a new type of super-soldier with curious behaviour is zoning in on them. Touching on genetic modification, mind control and power play, 'The Loop' is an exciting, high-stakes new series, bound to appeal to readers of 'Scythe', 'Maze Runner' and 'The Hunger Games'. There are echoes of Orwell’s Big Brother in Nineteen Eighty-Four and Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go in this not-so-far-fetched future of sky farms, controlled climate, distinct levels of human ability via modification and access to technology, and political power through marketing and its machinations. Add to this that Luka and his misfit friends are the perfect companions—you will want to keep running with them as far as this world can take you.

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