Control, by Kim Curran (Scott Tyler #2)

 Title: Control (Scott Tyler #2)
 Author: Kim Curran
 Publisher: Strange Chemistry
 Publication date: 1st August 2013 (UK)
 Rating: ★★★★ 

Control-144dpiSometimes after reading a book, for whatever reason, I end up wanting to lower the rating. It’s not always a strictly negative decrease, in fact, in this particular case, it’s because I enjoyed Control more than I enjoyed Shift, which I awarded five-stars at the time. Needless to say, the fact that I both enjoyed the sequel more, yet wanted to award it a four-star rating sends mixed signals following the higher rating. So, whilst I’m not going to physically edit the review of Shift to indicate this, or change the review text on Amazon and Goodreads, I am going to continue on in this review of Control stating that: Shift now is rated 3.75 stars, and that, as indicated by the pretty little stars at the top, Control is a four-star review.As it happens, I really enjoyed Control, which actually offered a very different kind of experience from the first Scott Tyler book. It wasn’t especially surprising – in fact, it was somewhat predictable – but it was somehow far more enjoyable than Shift. There were a few niggles, but I’ll address those later.

Ultimately, Control continues the story of Scott Tyler in much the way I hoped it would: by focusing on his life and role in ARES and the aftermath of Shift. I didn’t want so much an immediate aftermath as I did a “few months later” kind of offering, and this was more or less precisely what I got. I also wanted a focus on Scott and Aubrey, because I wanted a way for her to feel less irrelevant.

It’s funny that when you look back on a book, whilst awaiting the next, you realise which characters you remember and those you tend to gloss over. Aubrey is one of those. Firstly, I have a slightly difficult time being happy with the fact that Aubrey is essentially the only “alternative” teenager in the story (a point made about her “dyed hair” as though it’s something different, her boots), as well as the fact that she, as the only alternative teen, is the one who smokes. It all feels a bit like an attempt to create an edgy “rock chick”, without really hitting the spot at all. Aubrey is the independent teen who lives alone, and so naturally she’s the one with the rebellious streak. Didn’t like that.

What’s more, I felt that this made Scott’s Yes, Sir; No, Sir attitude stand out more, making him into a bit of a boring protagonist when push comes to shove. It felt as though he had more of a personality in Shift. But then I don’t warm well to characters who take everything at face value, and sometimes this is Scott Tyler up and down. Too trusting and not complicated enough. A little too Thor when I want some Loki. Scott seems not to be complex enough at times.

But his personality serves the story, that much is true.

Basically, I’m not attached to Aubrey or Scott. I’m just not – and this from the guy who gets attached to the most minor characters ever. But what I read Kim Curran’s books for is the setting and the set-up. There’s not nearly enough YA SFF that offers up an investigative streak; and I love investigation and almost-detectivework.

There feels like just enough science fiction cut with just enough government agency work to keep me interested. Of course, the whole premise of the book is enough to keep me there: ultimately I’m here for the Shifting, aren’t I? I think I am.

But the point is that I’m still here. And that I really love these books. They’re like the  teen movies that I watch on my sister’s NetFlix, bringing down her cool rep. In fact, I stand by the opinion that of all the YA books I’ve read, the Scott Tyler books would make the translation into movie form most effortlessly.

Given the negative aspects I’ve whined about, it probably doesn’t seem as though Control was a four-star book – but it really was. I enjoyed the story, the telling of it, and the surprises along the way, even if they were predictable. The ending wasn’t as surprising as I thought, given the pacing of the book and the lack of true resolution leading up to it: something big was going to happen. In fact, it had to happen.

And it did.

I’m…uncertain as to how much I’ll really enjoy the set-up of the third book, since it veers towards subject matter that I don’t usually enjoy. But I’ll still read it, because ultimately I really enjoy the concept. I wish the minor characters were more 3D and that there were more of them, since the cast feels very lacking.

Again, this all sounds so negative. Basically Control is fun. Maybe because it doesn’t take itself too seriously it misses a few points that I generally look for, and the way teens are portrayed doesn’t resonate with me, but it was a bloody fun book. And there’s nothing wrong with that, and certainly no reason to award a lower rating. It deserves the four stars, absolutely.

It was better than Shift because it was slicker, cooler and altogether more fluid in both concept, execution and what it set out to do. It was a very quick, very smooth read, the kind you pick up, whiz through, and put down satisfied at the end. I’m not hooked on the series, but Curran’s books are certainly titles that, as soon as they land, I’ll be reading them. They’re like snacks: quick and enjoyable, in and of themselves. Like a good chocolate bar, your expectations don’t rise any higher than enjoying the taste and the experience of taking five and having a damn good nibble. That’s what reading Control was like, and anything that compares metaphorically to chocolate can’t be bad.

It’s refreshing to have YA books that are just fun to read. Because sometimes, that’s all you want to do. Control was so utterly yummy that you should pre-order it immediately (and buy some chocolate to go with it!).

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