YOUTH IN FREEFALL — THE DUKE OF URANIUM, JOHN BARNES

DUKE OF URANIUM COVERIn a future a few thousand years from now, Jak Jinnaka and his pals are having a grand old time. Partying hearty and ignoring everything he’s supposed to be learning at school, he hasn’t spent any time or effort thinking about the future. Any future, but especially his own. His got a great best friend, a gorgeous girlfriend and no responsibilities.

But that ends abruptly the day his girlfriend, Sesh, is kidnapped. He’s beaten senseless and  discovers the world is nothing like he thought it was.

It’s a brand new reality. The beautiful, free-wheeling party girl Sesh is Princess Shyf of Greenworld, heiress and only daughter of the rulers of a powerful kingdom. Jak’s Uncle Sib is not merely the kindly old guy who controls the family money, but a legendary spymaster. Now, it appears Jak is about to enter the family business with no training or time to think about possible repercussions.

It’s the first book in a new series obviously aimed at a teen audience. As was Harry Potter, so I didn’t consider its youthful skew an obstacle to enjoyment. I did sometimes find it a bit young for me … but I also found it witty and frequently laugh-out-loud funny. Barnes’ observations on society and culture is razor-sharp.

The characters are fun and interesting. They grow and change, something I always appreciate in a book. This was promoted as being along the lines of Heinlein’s young adult literature, but Barnes writes nothing like Heinlein. I like Heinlein — that’s not true. I love Heinlein. But I like Barnes too. You don’t need to lure me with promises of “another Heinlein.” I don’t need the incentive. I’d read it anyhow.

The book takes a long time to catch fire. Barnes has created a world and needs to explain it. I’d prefer he showed us more and told us less because the book plods for the first half. After that, it takes off and steps out lively.

Not only has Barnes invented a world, but he’s invented a language. It uses a lot of words that are sort of English, but not really. We’re supposed to figure out what they mean by context and mostly, I did. Eventually. It would have been easier if he had included a short glossary or footnoted the words or … just used English. I don’t think the unfamiliarity of the language added anything but confusion.

That being said, I enjoyed the book. It dragged  in the beginning, but the end was fast with plenty of action. Predictable? I didn’t think it was all that predictable … no more than any other book of this type I’ve read. It has a lot of potential as a series and I’ll be interested to see where Barnes takes it.

6 thoughts on “YOUTH IN FREEFALL — THE DUKE OF URANIUM, JOHN BARNES

    • It’s aimed at a young adult audience. Teenagers … so you have to remember that and not mind that all the protagonists are kids. But it is good, except for that rather slow take off.

  1. There are two series that I want to read, but I feel like once I start a series, I am committed. Then there will be no other books until I reach the series end. I like to know a series has a beginning and an end. A trilogy is always good :)

    Nice review!

    • I know what you mean. I’m committed to five or six different series, but fortunately (I guess though sometimes, I hate waiting), it usually takes at least a year for an author to write the next book. As they come out, I read’em. I wouldn’t miss them anyway. They are like family. Some of these serieces I ‘ve been following for more than a decade … once since I was 14, more than 50 years. Over the years, they have become very real.

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