Monday, January 26, 2009

The Lab by Jack Heath

cover of The Lab by Jack HeathSix of Hearts is the best agent in the Deck, a vigilante group trying to reclaim the values of their city prior to its takeover. Six has a 100% success rate on his missions. He doesn't like smalltalk and his every action is based on logic. He is only sixteen years old.

But that's not what makes him different.

Six was created in a laboratory, part of an experiment called Project Falcon. He's stronger than regular humans, has better eyesight and hearing, heals faster. He is amazingly healthy in a city marked by its wretched environment and the poor health and shortened lifespans that came with the pollution. Only one other person knows the truth about Six, and Six would like to keep it that way.

On a mission for the Deck, Six discovers that the Lab's experiments may not have ended with the fire that destroyed their workspace sixteen years ago. It was the fire that allowed Six to escape the Lab as a baby and he has tried to remain off the Lab's radar ever since. But the Lab is run by ChaoSonic, the corporation that took over the City and now controls almost every aspect of life there. Staying off their radar is tough, especially when you're busy infiltrating and stealing from some of their buildings. And Six just received a new mission that will send him straight back to the Lab.

The Lab by Jack Heath is a dystopian action novel. Think The House of the Scorpion meets Alex Rider, written by a teenager. (Wikipedia shows Heath's birthdate as August 23, 1986, making him 19 when The Lab was published in Australia.) In other words, it's a very cool book.

There is a lot of action in The Lab. A lot of it. And because the story is dystopian, the action seems even more exciting, from the technology and the fights to the car chase to even Six's ability to get out of situations that a normal human would not be able to escape. I also thought action scenes helped to illuminate Six's character. Okay, so there isn't exactly a lot of character development here, but besides providing thrills, they serve to highlight how logical he is and his physical superiority, how different he is from other people.

The action scenes are also varied enough that they never got boring or felt repetitive. Heath's writing is fast-paced, the escapes and scenarios clever, and the dystopian setting gives the story added substance and allows room for some philosophizing.

After finishing The Lab, I still had a few questions about Six, the Deck, the Lab, and ChaoSonic's takeover of the City; there were a couple of subplots that didn't seem to be resolved. A quick look at Heath's website shows that a second book about Six was published in Australia in 2007 and I hope Scholastic publishes it here in the U.S. soon.

[Cross-posted at The YA YA YAs]

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