Friday, September 21, 2012

Sulan Blog Tour: Book Review of Sulan by Camille Picott

Hey, everyone! Today is the first day on my stop of the Sulan, Episode 1: The League Virtual Book Tour and I've got a review for you all. Tune back in tomorrow for a guest blog post by the author of Sulan, Camille Picott, as she discusses her process of designing the lovely cover of her new novel.

Sulan, Episode 1: The League
by Camille Picott 

Genre: Dystopia/Cyberpunk
Reading Grade: Young Adult
Publication Date: June 2012
Source: review copy by author
Age Rating: 14+

Sixteen-year-old Sulan Hom can’t remember life before the Default—the day the United States government declared bankruptcy. As a math prodigy, she leads a protected life, kept safe from the hunger and crime plaguing the streets of America. She attends the corporate-sponsored Virtual High School, an academy in Vex (Virtual Experience) for gifted children.

Beyond the security of Sulan’s high-tech world, the Anti-American League wages a guerrilla war against the United States. Their leader, Imugi, is dedicated to undermining the nation’s reconstruction attempts. He attacks anything considered a national resource, including corporations, food storage facilities—and schools. When Sulan witnesses the public execution of a teenage student and the bombing of a college dorm, she panics.

Her mother, a retired mercenary, refuses to teach her how to defend herself. Sulan takes matters into her own hands. With the help of her hacker best friend, Hank, Sulan acquires Touch—an illegal Vex technology that allows her to share the physical experience of her avatar. With Touch, Sulan defies her mother and trains herself to fight.

When Imugi unleashes a new attack on the United States, Sulan finds herself caught in his net. Will her Vex training be enough to help her survive and escape? 
My Review

Sulan Hom is a math genius who pretends to be a slacker, but gets tricked into being accepted into a prestigious high school for gifted students. She lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her former mercenary mother at an undetermined date in the future, after the United States had so much debt, it defaulted and systematically plunged the country into mass unemployment and poverty. A group of terrorists called The League are made up of foreigners bombing and killing innocent Americans for their anti-American cause. After Sulan witnesses The League leader, Imugi, kill a college student on live TV, she decides she's going to train to become her own bodyguard.

Despite her mother's former life as a well-honed mercenary, she refuses to train Sulan to become physically capable of taking care of herself in a fight. Sulan sneaks into the online virtual world of Vex, a place where she can enter cyberspace with an avatar. In there, she meets Gun, a big tough guy who decides to train her for suspicious reasons, but she learns to trust him and they become good friends. Even in a virtual environment, she can train her real muscles to fight with the technology available in her era.

I really like this world of Vex and how a lot of the story takes place in this online, virtual world. Sulan would put on a pair of goggles and it was like she was literally entering a world made up of pixels and 3D images and doing all this through an avatar that looked exactly like her real body. She went to school this way and made friends with people who lived hundreds, if not thousands of miles away. She could go to other locations as well, just like surfing the internet, and spend time doing things people do in real life. So cool! Too bad we don't have anything like this now.

Sulan's goal is to not be weak and vulnerable to the threats posed by The League, who are pretty serious killers on the loose. The world in this story became a dystopia not because some lunatic got too much power, but because the world is so unsafe, the only way to protect regular citizens is to patrol them as if they were prisoners in a camp. I like this very different approach to dystopian world building, if anything, because it could happen in reality.

Sulan gets her opportunities to fight physically, but also to use her unique math genius skills to get an edge on The League enemies, and it's cleverly done. Kind of ironic that she tries so hard to be physically capable when being a math genius serves her better in combat situations.

As for characters I liked, I really thought Billy's uncle was hilarious, but it might be too spoilery to name him in this review. He's kind of crazy, but he really livens up every scene he's in. I also think Taro, a mercenary boy her age, is a pretty cool character, as is Riska, the tiger-bat pet that Sulan takes with her everywhere, which also serves as her protector. Sulan, her parents and Taro are the most prominent Asian characters in this story, which is meant to highlight Asian characters that English language YA literature so often does not feature prominently, if at all.

I think this type of YA dystopia is simply not represented anywhere else, so you'll be reading a unique story that doesn't smack of all The Hunger Games-esque books out there. Although, it's overly saturated with info-dumping in the first 50 pages, get beyond that and you'll enjoy the story just fine. It's a little violent, but much less so than The Hunger Games, for example, so it should be fine for its intended audience. It sets up the next volume well and gets you asking questions about Sulan's mysterious friend and trainer, Gun.

My score: 4/5 stars.

*I received a complimentary copy from the author of this novel in exchange for my honest review.


  1. Wasn't Billy's uncle the funniest guy? I adored his characterization! Part of me thinks Camille must have a relative like him because he's written so well. I'm so curious to know who Gun is as well.

    1. @Lan: He was super funny! He reminded me of Major Armstrong from Fullmetal Alchemist for some reason.

  2. I actually thought the "info dumping" was perfect. I've read some so bad I wanted to bash my head through a wall. I didn't think this one was bad at all. I'm glad you enjoyed it. It looks like everyone pretty much loves it which makes me so happy!

    1. @Jenny: I think there was a need for that info, but I felt like it needed to be spread out and not all in the beginning. I was super confused by it because it came all fast and furious-like and I hadn't gotten my bearings yet. But, to each his/her own.

  3. Thanks for the review, Cathy! I really appreciate it!

    1. @Camille: You're welcome! Thanks for sending me the copy of the book. ;)


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...