Project Pandora, a sci-fi book about modern day teenage assassins by Aden Polydoros, may sound fast-paced with high stakes, but the debut novel doesn’t live up to its promise.
Tyler (code name Apollo), a seventeen year old, starts having flashbacks of murder scenes and remembering things that never happened–at least in his mind. He ignores these suspicious occurrences and instead focuses on the romance blossoming between him and another girl he feels an inextricable pull to: Shannon (code name Athena), who so happens to have the same memory loss and symptoms as Tyler. The two of them slowly begin to uncover a conspiracy spanning the entirety of their lives involving brainwashing, assassinations, and mind control. They do this with the help of two other teenage assets named Hades (A-02) and Elizabeth (A-09). Will they be able to escape the grasp of Project Pandora unscathed or will they fall under the influence woven into their minds since conception?
What stood out to me the most was the writing style. From what I’ve read, the sentence syntax consists of very short and direct sentences. I feel this would be better suited for emphasis or a revelation, not really for the readers to care about the characters. Each description sounds abrupt and to-the-point as if the author would rather me not become attached to the characters. Maybe this book will do well on screen, but the writing doesn’t translate well into the mind. Aden Polydoros has built the bones to Project Pandora but the muscles are limp and the skin is stretched too tight over everything, as if I prodded one of the plot holes too much, the whole structure would explode.
One problem with the pacing is the characters. There are too many. With a complex idea of brainwashing and an insidious organization behind every corner, four narrators going on about school, romance, and friends take the focus away from the science-fiction aspect of the book. And not only that, but the romance is lackluster as well. Both couples were instantly drawn to each other, which is due to them knowing each other before, but the romance feels like it’s picking up from the middle of their love stories rather than seeing them develop feelings for each other. However, I did root for one couple more than the other like a twisted version of who wore it better. I can only compare this to trashy daytime shows where you hate everyone, but do you love hating everyone.
Another problem with the pacing is when details come in. We discover there is another Academy for training kid spies in Colorado that Tyler and Shannon are going to take down. Umm….what? I thought Project Pandora was only located in one place! I see the sequel route Polydoros is trying to take–which I don’t mind–but introducing the complexity of the project at an earlier time would make this feel less of a ploy.
Because the pacing is not coherent, I have loads of questions. One, why do Shannon and Tyler care about taking down the system? Yeah, their whole life is a ruse, but they don’t know what they’re getting into. In fact, Hades was the one who knew the most about the Project and he didn’t even know the name of his leader. Speaking of, Hades is my favorite character in this book. He is an unreliable soldier, mysterious, somewhat of an anti-hero, and I love him for it. At the same time, we see cracks in his armor when he breaks down from loneliness or breaks down from being tortured. The vulnerability shows he sweats the same sweat and bleeds the same blood as the rest of us. Tyler in comparison is a typical golden boy who does no wrong, who gets the girl and has no blot on his moral conscience.
Overall, an average book. I felt no rush to read it nor did I feel any stakes but at the same time, it wasn’t bad, but I would suggest this as a filler read.
RATING: 2 OUT OF 5 STARS
Project Pandora was published on August 1st, 2017.
Tyler Bennett trusts no one. Just another foster kid bounced from home to home, he’s learned that lesson the hard way. Cue world’s tiniest violin. But when strange things start happening—waking up with bloody knuckles and no memory of the night before or the burner phone he can’t let out of his sight— Tyler starts to wonder if he can even trust himself. Even stranger, the girl he’s falling for has a burner phone just like his. Finding out what’s really happening only leads to more questions…questions that could get them both killed. It’s not like someone’s kidnapping teens lost in the system and brainwashing them to be assassins or anything, right? And what happens to rogue assets who defy control? In a race against the clock, they’ll have to uncover the truth behind Project Pandora and take it down—before they’re reactivated. Good thing the program spent millions training them to kick ass...