Mini Review: Burn Out by Kristi Helvig

Burn Out
Kristi Helvig

I received an e-ARC of this book from the publisher in return for an honest review.
Released April 8, 2014
272 pages

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A futuristic blend of Beth Revis's Across the Universe and Lenore Appelhans's Level 2, Burn Out will satisfy the growing desire for science fiction with a thrilling story of survival, intrigue, and adventure.

Most people want to save the world; seventeen-year-old Tora Reynolds just wants to get the hell off of it. One of the last survivors in Earth's final years, Tora yearns to escape the wasteland her planet has become after the sun turns "red giant," but discovers her fellow survivors are even deadlier than the hostile environment.

Holed up in an underground shelter, Tora is alone--her brilliant scientist father murdered, her mother and sister burned to death. She dreams of living on a planet with oceans, plants, and animals. Unfortunately, the oceans dried out ages ago, the only plants are giant cacti with deadly spines, and her pet, Trigger, is a gun--one of the bio-energetic weapons her father created for the government before his conscience kicked in.

When family friend, Markus, arrives with mercenaries to take the weapons by force, Tora's fury turns to fear when government ships descend in an attempt to kill them all. She forges an unlikely alliance with Markus and his rag-tag group of raiders, including a smart but quiet soldier named James. Tora must quickly figure out who she can trust, as she must choose between saving herself by giving up the guns or honoring her father's request to save humanity from the most lethal weapons in existence.

Oh, Burn Out, you started with so much potential. Our heroine Tora is potentially the last living person on a burned up and abandoned Earth beneath a sun on the verge of dying. She lives in a bunker beneath the wasted landscape that her father built before his unfortunate with her only company being her memories of her younger sister and an arsenal of guns that her father developed for the government before hiding them away. It’s the beginning of a potentially interesting story of a girl who is all alone in possession of some of the most destructive weapons in the galaxy.

Then an old sketchy associate of Tora’s father shows up to take her to another world if only she’d turn over the arsenal for him to sell to the same government, now relocated, that destroyed her family. When she refuses, he returns a little while later with a crew of mercenaries to take the weapons by force. This is the point where any potential this book might have was demolished in the laser crossfire.

Tora is set up as a headstrong independent young woman with a strict moral code that will prevent her from ever allowing her father’s weapons to end up in the hands of the enemy (and in this case, anyone other than her is an enemy). The world has been described as deadly in every way, and she’s survived within it on her alone for years. That she suddenly goes from potential badass to whishy-washy damsel in distress is unfortunate.

None of the characters in Burn Out manage to maintain any sense of personality or motivation for very long before they do complete 180s and become someone else. One moment these mercenaries are attempting to kill Tora, the next they want to be buddies with her and she is a-okay with it. One minute she’s adversaries with a character, who tries to throw her out of a moving spaceship, and then the next chapter they are besties. It’s all very confusing and impossible to the point where all the characters feel like masks put on different character traits as the plot dictated rather than an actual person filled in by their personalities.

I also felt the pacing was off, never really getting up and running before it came to the end. This could have potentially be from my e-ARC having two copies of the book back to back so that as I came to the conclusion of the book, my Kindle showed that I was hitting 50% and I assumed there was much more to the story. Even if that hadn’t set me up for thinking there was much more story ahead, Burn Out ends just as it hints of a plot actually really beginning.

The lack of consistent characterization and the rotating motivations made this a very difficult book to get sucked into. It’s a short, fast read that could potentially lead to a series with much more meat, but this first volume lacks any hook to keep me reading further.