Well … there’s not a quick and easy answer to that question.
First, we need to discuss a very serious criticism that should not be easily overlooked, or ignored. If you have read any of their previous novels, then you will have noticed a certain key trait within AJ Penn’s writing style, and that is the reoccurring way in which they continually break one of the most fundamental rules within writing – ‘show, don’t tell’.
Throughout the novel the reader is constantly being told that something has occurred, told about a series of conversations that characters have engaged in, or even worse, told about what characters have felt about a situation … all without the reader having experienced any of this in real time – within the actual moment itself.
The problems that this creates are twofold. The first is that it develops a sense of distance between the reader and the events that are currently transpiring, forging a severe disconnect between the author, the reader, and the unfolding situation. The second issue, which stems directly from this, is that the reader is left with the overriding sentiment that they have been denied witnessing several key scenes unfold in real time, crucial moments and character interactions that should have been shown, rather than constantly being told about to the reader.
On the complete opposite side of the spectrum however, is AJ Penn’s ability to dive deep into the fabric of certain character’s inner minds, to really take time to reflect on, and represent, the core aspects of their being. We witnessed this back in A New World, when we were taken through Bray’s harrowing journey to escape from Eloise and the Zootists. Within (R)Evolution, we are given a different journey, but the same beautiful dive into several character’s psyche.
And these moments are undoubtedly written extremely well.
This does however also have the unintended side effect of neglecting almost all of the peripheral characters, and going back to the initial criticism, glossing over many interactions and storylines that we will now not get to experience firsthand. This is exceptionally true when several returning faces make a reappearance within the novel.
These returnees are not all handled with the same care, and indeed, by the end of (R)Evolution, it is almost a comical game of ‘who is going to turn up next?’ There was definitely a conscious effort enforced to please fans in certain areas. Though this is not automatically a bad aspect, the unfolding storyline does not enable the right circumstances to explore everything that this should entail with the characters that are reintroduced.
As a whole, the writing style can be quite frustrating. On the one hand, you have some beautiful writing and passages with the deep dives into certain characters, but on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, you then have the constant hand-waving and glossing over of importance scenes.
So, if you can persevere through these issues with the unbalanced style on display here, is there actually a solid story underneath it all?
Again, there’s not a quick and easy answer to that either.
Taking into account both the character moments and the ongoing story concepts, it definitely feels like the amount of enjoyment that you can gain from the novel is directly correlated to which series of The Tribe you have more of an emotional connection to.
If you are someone who loved the original premise of ‘teenagers struggling to survive in a world without any adults’, then you most likely would not have enjoyed the latter inclusion of Technos and their associated storylines. Which, in turn, would have severely limited your enjoyment of the continuation novels.
However, if you are someone who loved the inclusion of technology into the show, who enjoyed the new direction of ‘teenagers struggling to survive with technology in a world without any adults’, then you would have found the previous novels, and will equally find (R)Evolution, to be extremely enjoyable.
The technological aspects and inclusions step up a gear within series 8, presenting everything from driver-less automatic cars, to stun guns, to drones, to hacking segments, to more planes, and even more AI systems. So if this is the area of The Tribe that you particularly enjoyed, then you will absolutely love the storyline within (R)Evolution.
It is no secret that the novels have been building towards the various mysteries surrounding the Collective, as well as the exact nature of the Eagle Mountain facility and its connections to the viral outbreak. Three novels in and we are finally introduced to the leader of the Collective tribe, we finally get to meet ‘Kami’ and their objectives for the future.
Unfortunately, this is also where a lot of the story, whether you enjoyed the technological aspects or not, leaves you scratching your head.
I will not spoil the final chapters of (R)Evolution, but the reader is left feeling rather perplexed. Everything that has been gradually built on so far is suddenly turned on its head, including various expectations and resolutions occurring at a breakneck pace. I will even go as far to say that this sudden change in direction throws up several major inconsistencies and plot-holes within the story, and previous novels, that can not be easily reconciled.
Whatever your personal sentiments about the ending, it does feel incredibly rushed, alongside a rather bizarre pairing that had no prior setup and made very little sense – to either character.
The breakneck speed of the ending, as if to quickly wrap things up, also throws up several connections to try and tie this into the younger spin-off show, The New Tomorrow.
Ultimately, The Tribe: (R)Evolution is very difficult to summarize. Even with the rights and contract issues due to certain partnerships no longer going ahead, the novel itself has been a very long time in coming, due in part to a lot of the feedback leveled against the previous novel, A New Dawn. Though (R)Evolution seeks to address many of those issues, it also falls by trying to address those very same issues, creating not only the sense that we have both read and seen this story, and its overarching themes, many times before, but the reader is left with the final sentiment that nothing feels like it has been particularly fleshed out as a whole.
And that’s without re-mentioning the unbalanced writing issues that are very difficult to ignore.
If you are someone who celebrated what The Tribe had become, then (R)Evolution is well worth a read, even with it’s issues. There is enough excitement and scenarios to keep you entertained alongside your love of these characters.
However, if you celebrated what The Tribe once was, then (R)Evolution does nothing to specifically persuade you that this is the direction that the novels, or indeed the show itself, should be going in.