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After a great war, the East Pacific is in ruins. In brutal Neo Seoul, where status comes from success in combat, ex-gang member Lee Jaewon is a talented pilot rising in the ranks of the academy. Abandoned as a kid in the slums of Old Seoul by his rebel father, Jaewon desires only to escape his past and prove himself a loyal soldier of the Neo State.
When Jaewon is recruited into the most lucrative weapons development division in Neo Seoul, he is eager to claim his best shot at military glory. But the mission becomes more complicated when he meets Tera, a test subject in the government’s supersoldier project. Tera was trained for one purpose: to pilot one of the lethal God Machines, massive robots for a never-ending war.
With secret orders to report on Tera, Jaewon becomes Tera’s partner, earning her reluctant respect. But as respect turns to love, Jaewon begins to question his loyalty to an oppressive regime that creates weapons out of humans. As the project prepares to go public amidst rumors of a rebellion, Jaewon must decide where he stands—as a soldier of the Neo State, or a rebel of the people.
Pacific Rim meets Korean action dramas in this mind-blowing, New Visions Award-winning science fiction debut.
ARC received for review purposes in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
When a book is described as “Pacific Rim meets Korean action dramas”, it’s hard for a fan of both of those things to ignore. Rebel Seoul comes highly recommended from fellow bloggers, which just added to my excitement of reading the book. Perhaps it was my high expectations, but Rebel Seoul wasn’t the book I was led to believe it would be.
The premise of the book is certainly interesting. The futuristic/dystopian South Korean setting is fresh and unique, but only bare bones of the world are explored here, which makes it hard to become invested in the story. A lot of the world building, and the history of the war that led to this new Korean society feels like info-dumping, which means the book is peppered with these dense chunky paragraphs explaining the world. It’s not how I personally enjoy reading the world building of a book, and it led to moments of boredom for me. The plot is also slow-paced, which didn’t enhance my enjoyment of the story. You would think that a book that features God Machines, basically robots that help fight in war, and scientifically militarized human weapons, would be intense and action-packed. Unfortunately, Rebel Seoul fails to effectively use them to create a kick-ass story, which is quite the disappointment if you ask me because there’s so much potential with the pages of this book.
The characters weren’t better, in my opinion either. While I liked being inside Jaewon’s head, the rest of the secondary characters were flat and needed to be fleshed-out more strongly. Jaewon himself is an interesting character because he is dealing with a lot – his father died in a suicide mission, his mother abandoned him and his relationship with his only friend is frayed beyond repair. His thoughts are not always a happy place, but it fit the tone of the story, and I grew to care for his happiness as Rebel Seoul progressed. But as I said, the rest of the cast didn’t particularly leave any kind of impression on me. I would have especially liked to see more development in Tera’s character, a human weapon. I really think she could have been a memorable character hadn’t she come across as a caricature of sort. The lack of development in the secondary cast also means I didn’t find the romances to be particularly ship-worthy. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that they feel forced into the story. I was surprised when declarations of love popped up because I barely felt any progression in the relationships.
I’m sad that Rebel Seoul didn’t work for me because it seemed like the kind of story that would hit all the right notes. From glancing at reviews on Goodreads, it does seem like I’m a black-sheep with this book, so if you’re curious about the book, give it a try!