Phoenix Island by John Dixon tells the story of a mysterious island with a military-style bootcamp that has much darker purposes than the story’s protagonist, Carl, first assumes. I had been hoping that there would be a bit of a sci-fi element to it, but Phoenix Island barely strayed into the realm of near sci-fi and didn’t pursue the interesting paranormal directions that it could of. Instead, Phoenix Island has an emphasis on violence for violence’s sake, lunatics that want to take over the world, and a very Lord of the Flies feel to it.
Note: I received an advance copy of Phoenix Island through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Some things may have changed in the final version.
Phoenix Island by John Dixon
Published by Gallery Books on Jan 7th, 2014
Genres: Thriller, YA
Length: 320 pages
How I got my copy: NetGalley
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Phoenix Island was supposed to be a boot camp for troubled children. But as one boy learns, the secrets of this jungle are as vast as they are deadly.
When sixteen-year-old boxing champ Carl Freeman jumps in to defend a helpless stranger, he winds up in real trouble - a two-year sentence at an isolated boot camp for orphans. Carl is determined to tough it out, earn a clean record, and get on with his life. Then kids start to die.
Realizing Phoenix Island is actually a Spartan-style mercenary organization turning "throwaway kids" into super-soldier killers, Carl risks everything to save his friends and stop a madman bent on global destruction.
- Phoenix Island’s MC, Carl, really hates bullies and has the strength and fighting skill to stand up to them. I really identified with his deeply-rooted need to protect those who can’t protect themselves, especially when I found out how he came to possess that instinct. Carl does what I wish I could do when I hear of the really extreme bullies: demonstrate to them that they can’t treat people that way and get away with it.
- The action never stops in Phoenix Island. It seemed like there was always some sneaking or fighting or equally suspenseful scene playing out. I can see why the manuscript inspired a television show since it is definitely made for keeping people hooked.
- The premise of Phoenix Island is a little crazy, but as things developed, they seemed actually possible. There is some light sci-fi in that some of the technology used isn’t actually viable in today’s world, however it could be in another couple of decades.
- The ending of Phoenix Island leaves a lot of room for a sequel that I think I would quite enjoy. The mysteries that remain and the things that need to be done have a lot of promise!
- There is a crazy amount of violence and evil in Phoenix Island, but that grittiness served to make the suspense real. Phoenix Island demonstrates pretty quick that side characters and even fairly central characters will not be spared from injury and even death.
- The violence in Phoenix Island went way too far for me, however, to the point that I simply stopped caring. I became desensitized to the horrible things happening to the characters because I knew that worse things would keep happening. It was weird when the suspense is lost because I KNEW that the bad thing would actually happen and I just cringed and tried to get it over with.
- Half of the island is inhabited by the bootcamp and the other half is separated by a big fence and is so scary even the big, bad drill sergeants are afraid of it. You can’t just throw in a mysterious half of an island and not go explore it! The whole book I was waiting for the kids to escape over the fence and find out what is really out there, but no.
- Don’t read the blurb if you want to be surprised by anything. It pretty much summarizes Phoenix Island and I freaking hate when they do that!
- There are lots of weird little things that are included by never explained, and one of them is that the romantic interest has a white patch in her otherwise dark hair. Sure, there are lots of medical reasons why she could have discoloration (it’s not dyed, they shave their heads), but it is never addressed. I really want to know! All she’d have to say is, “Oh yeah, I have this discoloration condition” but no, Anya has to be left in the dark again. I know it sounds small, but it’s a non-spoilerly example of the many strange things that are never explained.
Phoenix Island is mostly a thriller about a mercenary bootcamp full of psychos, but it had just enough strange and mysterious elements that I kept hoping it would turn into a sci-fi. The numerous mysteries that remained at the end and seem unlikely to be explained in a sequel drove me nuts and the excessive violence forced me to just stop caring about these characters. If you like boxing, you might like Phoenix Island since Carl was a boxer and there is a lot of fighting where he relies on that skill. Phoenix Island just doesn’t seem to be a good book, even a good thriller, for speculative fiction fans because we expect mysteries to be solved and strangeness to be investigated. I did give it a half-star back, though, since I know I’m not quite the intended audience for Phoenix Island, no worries ;-).