Since my own YA novel debuts this year, I've decided to read (and review) as many debuts as I can. I'm starting out with John Dixon's science fiction/action adventure novel PHOENIX ISLAND, which released January 7. Here goes!
But then he discovers the
truth about Phoenix Island. And it’s a lot worse than he ever dreamed.
I loved this debut
sci-fi action-adventure by author John Dixon (himself a Philadelphia native and
former boxer). The writing is fast-paced, the characters (especially Carl and
his one buddy on Phoenix Island, the comedic Ross) well-drawn and sympathetic,
and the revelation of Phoenix Island’s dark secrets riveting. I especially
appreciated Dixon’s keen eye for detail, particularly in fight scenes, where he
draws on his background in boxing to make the action utterly believable:
He’s a southpaw, Carl
reminded himself, seeing Parker advance with his right foot forward, and he’s had just enough training to do
everything a southpaw is supposed to do. He would fight with his right foot
forward and try to nail Carl with a straight left hand, maybe a right hook. All I have to do is keep my lead foot
outside his lead foot, and I’ll eat him alive. If Parker came at him like
that, looking to land the big left, Carl could just quarter-pivot, and Parker
would turn and chase him and run into Carl’s straight right.
As I've mentioned on this blog before, writers in the sci-fi genre are sometimes too eager for the knockout blow to nail the
small details, and that casts an aura of falsity over the whole. That’s never a
worry in Phoenix Island, and so, when
the book introduces science fiction elements, they never strain the reader’s
credulity. Believable unbelievability, I’d call it, and Dixon does it right.
If I have one
reservation about Phoenix Island, it
has to do with the character of Octavia, a female inmate on Phoenix Island who seems less
well developed than she could be, more the obligatory romantic interest than a fully-rounded character. Having her perspective in the book does,
however, enable Dixon to heighten the tension in the final act with some expert
Phoenix Island, in case you didn’t know, provided the basis for the
TV series Intelligence. I haven’t
seen the show (who has time for TV?), but if it’s anything like its source material, it’s a