Mark Edwards's Reviews > Lab Rat One

Lab Rat One by Andrea K. Höst
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's review
Feb 29, 2012

it was amazing
Read in February, 2012

Like any good sequel, Lab Rat One raises the stakes from the first book, deepens the characters but continues to deliver solid worldbuilding, exciting action and fully-realized characters. This is definitely a series that does not suffer from ‘saggy middle’. Cassandra begins to develop powers of her own, in a slow and painful kind of way. Her relationships also deepen.

She also must deal with unwanted fame and the unending surveillance of the Tare State. Still a virtual prisoner, Cassandra tries to adapt to the world she is increasingly thinking of as her new home.

What I liked:

The main characters are well realized. The action is good with vivid battle scenes and inventive use of the Setari’s psychic powers. Cassandra is easy to sympathize with, the first person POV is immersive. The story pulls you along. The stakes are high and you do want the ‘good guys’ to win.

Cassandra’s new-found power and her struggle to learn how to use it is handled well. She does not suddenly gain great power and skillful mastery of it. She is not an action hero, more like a regular girl who becomes important.

The short story chunks of each diary entry keep the story moving. The worldbuilding is very good, showing a sci-fi world that feels more contemporary than futuristic. The technology’s impact on this culture is very clearly depicted.

The relationship evolution between characters is handled fairly well. There isn’t any sudden, grand passion that sweeps the main character off her feet. Though I did wonder from time to time if Cassandra was falling for the object of her desire or if their respective powers were pulling them together, though that thought only occurred to me after I’d finished the series.

What I didn’t like:

Cassandra remains far too passive as character. She is slow to speak up for herself, something even the characters in the novel comment on. (The author’s subconscious speaking to her and us?) Things mostly happen to her, she rarely makes things happen. She also seems to spend half the book in the hospital, which sort of makes the ‘Lab Rat One’ reference make sense, though strictly speaking that was more appropriate in the first book, Stray.

The society remains problematic for me. This may well be realistic, when everyone is interconnected via implants and computers, universal surveillance is a wonderful gift to any government. To the author’s credit, one of the major plot points shows how this can be abused. But there are no consequences to it. The author raises the point but doesn’t follow it through. Cassandra is a virtual and literal prisoner for the entire book. First because she is helpless then later because she is valuable. She belongs to the State, not to herself. I could go on at length but I'll stop there.

There is also a LOT of Cassandra longing for Kaoren Ruuel. I’ll buy that it’s realistic and might ring true to teenaged girls. But I’m not a teenaged girl, I found it a little tiresome, though I know what it’s like to long for someone.

I whole-heartedly recommend this book. It is an excellent example of a sequel done right (though I suspect the whole trilogy was written as one, large work). Good characters, great conflict, cool powers and a well-thought out setting.
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