Bestselling author Eric Nylund brings the magic once again with his new action-packed science fiction thriller for middle grades, The Resisters. Nylund, the head writer for Microsoft Game Studios, has worked on Halo games and written Halo novels based on them.
I knew him best, though, before The Resisters, for the first two novels of his “Mortal Coils” trilogy. They are some of the best urban fantasy novels I’ve ever read, mixing mythology and legends with the lives and fates of two remarkable teens fought over by both sides of their family.
Nylund’s first book for middle-grade readers is about twelve-year-old Ethan Blackwood. Somewhat short for his age, but has nonetheless excelled in school, both academically and athletically.
In the not-so-distant future of The Resisters, Earth has been taken over by aliens who have clouded the minds of most human adults. When kids enter high school and are old enough, their minds also enter the collective consciousness of the Hive. They become little more than slaves to the aliens, but everyone acts as if nothing strange has happened, and that aliens have never landed on Earth.
The aliens, in particular, are on the lookout for kids who show initiative and leadership qualities. The version of soccer that Ethan plays for his school is one of the coolest parts of the novel (though there are many very cool things about it). The kids wear armor that weighs over 600 pounds, but they are very fast and maneuverable in them despite the weight. Imagine running down a soccer field, resembling a robot more than a human kid, and slamming into your opponents.
Two teens who are watching one game don’t attend the school and seem to be out of place. They are Madison and Felix (which is humorous on an entirely different level, if you are old enough to recall The Odd Couple). They recognize in Ethan someone who might make a great Resister—a rebel fighter against the aliens.
They basically kidnap Ethan and take him past the city limits to show him what the world is really like—and to convince him that he’s been told lies all of his life. Ethan thinks they’re crazy, but when they come under attack by giant insects (aliens in living insect armor), he realizes that they’re telling the truth. Madison and Felix get into their own insect armor, Felix in a Hercules beetle one and Madison in one that looks like a dragonfly. Ethan has little choice suit up in the armor that’s left. It looks like an ant, but it’s really a wasp.
As they battle their opponents, Ethan goes over the side of a cliff inside his wasp armor. He panics and wills the suit to unfold its wings and take him back to the city. There, he learns that his parents, though likely not his birth parents, have loved him and tried to ensure that he would grow up thinking for himself. Ethan gets the idea that they might have been trying to help him fight against the aliens and become a rebel all along.
There are cameras everywhere, and police and aliens. The collective mentality of the Hive knows that Ethan has been kidnapped and is aware of the truth.
They come and take him away, trying (with his coach, who is helping the aliens) to get him to reveal where he hid the wasp armor, but he won’t tell them. All he can think about is that he hopes Madison and Felix made it to safety okay, and he desperately wants to warn his older sister, who is headed off to what she believes is college, about the aliens and save her from becoming brainwashed by them.
The Resisters will keep you on the edge of your seat. I kept imagining as I read it that it would make a great movie, and I hope that it will become one some day. Until then, if you love action-packed, adventure-filled science fiction novels, I highly recommend The Resisters.