Review: Conquest / Author: John Connolly, Jennifer Ridyard / Publisher: Headline / Release Date: Out Now
The creation of authors John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard, Conquest serves as a more hard-hitting take on humans vs aliens than is customarily given in books targeted at younger audiences. Turning humanity’s own technology against them, an alien force known as the Illyri has complete dominion over Earth. With a generation having passed since their arrival, Paul Kerr and Syl Hellais have grown up witnessing the conflict from opposite sides – both aware of the horrors of occupation, but not the true nightmare which will soon befall them...
As the first in a series, Conquest gets many elements right but makes many basic mistakes. Writing for young adults, the authors made the point of not talking down to their audience or portraying a black-and-white battle. While Earth has been taken over and skirmishes continue, the aliens do not pull an Independence Day and are even commented upon to have improved elements of life on Earth. Some Illyri are portrayed in a somewhat sympathetic light despite their loyalties, and similarly the human resistance is far from squeaky clean with extremely hostile members among their number. This is made especially clear very early on through the characters of Andrus and Knutter who contrast with the more hostile and heroic members of their factions. The book also does not avoid the subject of death, freely showing it despite the fascinatingly peaceful conquest by the Illyri in the book’s opening stages.
The chief problem is with the over-abundance of exposition. Many elements feel as if they’re being told to the reader, rather than explained through characters or environments. This is especially so in early pages outlining Earth’s fall which, while effective, could have been made vastly more immersive if they were framed as government documents or reports.
Early chapters feel as if they’re trying to get the set-up out of the way in as few pages as possible, and it does come across as rushed. More time should have been spent setting up the idea of the change in power and its long-term affects, and the aliens themselves. In a classic error, the Illyri are far too human in terms of both culture and physiology. While the latter is a point commented upon, very few cultural aspects are brought up to make them feel anything like a force from another world.
Conquest is definitely flawed, yet it retains enough positive elements to hold your interest until the final page. As a YA novel involving science fiction resistance fighters it’s no Animorphs, but with likeable characters, grey morality and a good mystery it’s a series with promise to it.