ParadigmParadigm by Helen Stringer
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It’s really ridiculous how difficult it was to get through “Paradigm”, but nonetheless, I survived the journey. Oddly, I don’t feel like I came out of this read feeling anything for the characters, scenarios, or really anything in it. It was a disjointed dystopian tale that had very little directive or focus to it in the beginning, muddled its way through the middle, and even when events started picking up in the latter third of the tale, I didn’t come out of the experience thinking about the story, its respective world or realm, nor did I particularly enjoy this read at all.

Matter in point, I’m having a very difficult time trying to think of ways to summarize this novel, because the vast majority of this work was meandering and overwrought. The only important point to the prologue was the reveal of a key, and despite an action sequence that involved monks being murdered, there’s very little intrigue to be had in the events because there’s a clinical disconnect. Fast forward to the actual story, and we see two teens – Sam and Nathan – as traveling companions. Quite a few terms are thrown around like MUTHA, and don’t expect them to be explained until a good 2/3rds into the book. This book had a serious case of T.M.U.T – or Too Many Unexplained (or Underused) Terminologies. I hated that because it’s not as if the story needed to have them – they felt like they were just thrown in to “sound” smart or sci-fi based. Most of the terms had really little to no function in the story and felt frustrating to meander through.

There were times when I thought this story tried to poke fun at itself and with the overarching cast, but for the most part, the humor fell flat in its delivery, because it was either forced or rather obvious in factors delivered in the story. The characters themselves were difficult to follow in their respective motivations. Sam felt like a robot with little sentience, Alma was just a cool character stereotype who served as a loose love interest and showed up at the most convenient times. Nathan was okay, and the twist involving him later in the story could’ve been much more if the narrative didn’t feel so disjointed, and if his character hadn’t stayed out of play for as long as he did. The other characters I couldn’t really care less about, including the rather bland villains.

If you want a brief summary of this novel, here it is: Sam and Nathan travel across the country in a dystopian U.S in a 1967 GTO. Sam comes across a device that’s sought after by unruly parties, which has to do with a sentient programming entity called MUTHA (why MUTHA’s role wasn’t defined far earlier in the story – I have no idea. I felt cheated once I figured out it was part of an experimentation involving humans, computational systems and DNA, because that could’ve been developed and vetted throughout the narrative much sooner). Ultimately, Sam comes across many odd characters in the chase for the “Paradigm”, but learns he has more of a connection to the device and MUTHA than he bargained for.

That sounds simple in respective thematic, but with the complicated way this story was told and how it wanders in many places with nothing happening and the narrative dragging its heels with the dry prose, I could see people having a very hard time maintaining interest in this novel in order to get to the parts where the explanations click into place. I think the only reason why this isn’t getting a 1-star rating from me is because it’s not the worst narrative I’ve read. But honestly, I wouldn’t recommend it for a YA sci-fi read. It was quite underwhelming.

Overall score: 1.5/5 stars

Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Mediadrome Press.

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