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TGRF's Reviews - The SYLO Chronicles

Posted May 25th, 2021 at 06:02 PM by TGRF
I read the SYLO books back in... I can't even remember when. A few years back. I hadn't read anything recently at the time, and possessed by a sudden urge to do so, I perused the fiction shelves of the local library, looking for likely titles. The one that I ended up checking out was SYLO, by D. J. MacHale, the first in a trilogy. Since reading all three books, I've had the desire to review them ever since.

5: Amazing, above flawless.
4: Flawless, but doesn't really stand out.
3: Might have some issues, but works fine.
2: Has some issues which might detract from the story.
1: Flawed, bring the story down noticeably.

Title: The SYLO Chronicles (SYLO, STORM, STRIKE)
Author: D.J.MacHale
My Rating: 4/5

Summary (no spoilers)
It's kind of hard to summarize the whole trilogy without spoiling it. That's because the last two books are based on the ending twist of the first. That twist reveals a lot, even including the genre.

To put it in as specific terms as I can, a group of four friends (for lack of a better term) realize something is going on, something which is very, very wrong. At the end of the first book, they catch a glimpse of what it is. During the next two books, they are simply trying to survive, and get the answers to what on earth is happening.

This isn't some whacky fantasy story, and is far more realistic than the summary makes it sound. Unfortunately, I can't get anymore detailed without ruining the twist at the end of the first book.

Setting: The setting is present-day America. The story is decidedly sci-fi. This is a single-PoV story.

Characters - Realism: 2.5
If SYLO has one issue (and it's really only in the first book), it's this. While the main characters are fine, some of the background characters are undeniably bland. I couldn't help but notice they're lifelessness while reading, and it did take me out of the story, if only for a bit. The main characters are perfectly fine.

Characters - Likability: 4
MacHale gets us easily on the side of the protagonist, and gives us no reason to leave. We see everything through the character's eyes, so his confusion and questions and feelings are our own. A very solid reader-character connection.

Plot - Interest: 4.5
SYLO is a strange case here, because even while reading the first book, I was trying to classify it. It literally fits no genre I have ever seen. Despite that - and the complete lack of understanding it caused (which was intentional) - I found myself easily drawn into the story. It was certainly something I didn't want to put down. Then I started the next two stories, realized what was going on, and that feeling increased substantially. By the time you start the second book, there's no way you'll want to put the book down.

Plot - Twists: 5
Of the stories I've read (which admittedly isn't much in the modern fiction realm), SYLO has the best twists. No competition. Starting in the second book and continuing to the end of the third, there are two main questions you (and the characters) are asking yourself. The twists which answer these questions are the most masterful I have ever seen. One hides the answer in plain sight, literally tells you it is in plain sight, gives you a 1/4 chance to guess the answer... and still 100% prevents you from doing so. The other makes use of some of the best misdirection I have ever seen to make the implausible completely acceptable. Together, they secure these stories a solid 5/5 for twists.

Originality of story: 4.5
Like the first SYLO book, the story defies classification for me. Is it a hero's journey? A mystery? An escape? Sort of, to all of those. And also no. So yes, the story is definitely original. Through MacHale's storytelling, I wasn't ever sure if the heros would win, let alone what winning would even look like.

Worldbuilding: 3.5
As a sci-fi story set in present-day America, there wasn't really a lot of worldbuilding going on. Especially in book one. There was some in the final book however, and to be honest, it felt a bit off to me. Parts of it were creative, but parts made me pause and think, 'really?'. Still though, at that point I was too hooked to really think about it much.

Overall the SYLO Chronicles were an intense and fun read, which definitely kept me turning the pages. The books were also clean, which for me was an added bonus.

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