I Am Traitor by Sif Sigmarsdóttir

The Blurb On The Back:

London, present day.

Extra-terrestrial visitors have landed.

Amy Sullivan used to feel safe living in a high-rise tower block in the middle of London.  Now it’s the worst place to be.  As large metallic arms fall from the sky, terrified are transported to an unimaginable world on the other side.

Amy runs until she can’t run any more.  Then, she is taken.

Scared and alone, she finds herself inside a spaceship, where those in power will stop at nothing to destroy all she knows.

To save her planet, Amy will have to put faith in those she fears the most.  But what if it means becoming a traitor to everyone she has ever loved?

At the end of the world … Who can you really trust?

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

14-year-old Amy Sullivan lives in a Canary Wharf tower block with her parents, older brother Andrew and younger sister Emma.  She leads a normal life of school, hanging out with her best friends (the vivacious, gorgeous Matilda and the quieter, techie Anita) and worrying about how to avoid the jibes of cool classmates Courtney and Louisa.

Then the Pronaxans came.

An alien species with superior technology, Pronaxan flying saucer-like ships hover above the world’s cities.  News reports become sporadic as electricity fails taking TV and the internet with it and then long metallic arms emerge from the ships and start kidnapping teenagers aged 14 – 19.  Escape is impossible and Amy knows it’s only a matter of time before she’s taken.  But Earth hasn’t given up yet.  When the Resistance contacts Amy, it’s because they need her help: once she’s taken onto the aliens’ ship, she’s to pass on a message to a faction within the Pronaxans called the Splinters who want to broker peace terms.

But life on the ships is like nothing Amy could ever imagine.  In a world where the teenagers are pitted against each other, her only ally among the aliens is a ridiculously good looking boy called Caesar.  But is he who he seems, and in space, who can you really trust?

Sif Sigmarsdóttir’s YA SF novel is a disappointing affair hampered by poor world building, inconsistencies and holes in the plot, two-dimensional characters who never react as you would expect and a main character who is supposed to be the ‘every teen’ who saves the day but who displays zero common sense – all of which is a shame because there are hints at sophisticated politics here that never get a chance to breathe.

My biggest issue with the book is the world building.  The aliens themselves are all disappointingly humanoid (albeit some have strange white skin pulled tight over their faces), with Caesar being the most human-looking and also incredibly attractive and the fact that their crafts are effectively saucers made my eyes roll.  It’s not until the final quarter of the book that an explanation is given as to what they want but that raises more questions – specifically why they need teenagers rather than older adults who have demonstrated that they can actually bear children, why they kill some of the teenagers rather than return them (especially given much is made of how the aliens have rules about how they treat other species) and why they don’t bother doing a proper search of them or their belongings when they’re brought on board.  Similarly, it’s really unclear what Earth’s reaction to the Pronax arrival is although again, hints are given in the final quarter – and I was left confused as to why there wasn’t more obvious military action and why the electricity kept going off when surely there’d be some kind of national emergency procedures that would kick in.

The camps that the kids are kept in also make little sense and the allusion to them being like Nazi concentration camps is clumsy and not born out by what we see of camp life.  Supposedly the mean kids are put given special roles and powers to keep the other kids in line but capos Courtney and Louisa are suddenly shown to switch sides for absolutely no reason and even though no one trusts the capos, neither girl gets challenged by Caesar or Amy on where their allegiances really lie.

Apart from Caesar the aliens are all caricatures, especially their leader who has no nuance at all but even Caesar is little more than an exposition machine – there’s no sense of why he’s drawn to the supposedly ordinary Amy in the first place and given her behaviour, even less to suggest why he remains keen on her.  It’s also ridiculously convenient how he has hacking abilities that let him move around the ship – something you’d have thought the Pronax security teams would be all over given his lower status on the ship.

Amy is an irritating ninny for much of the book. Constantly confused and out of her depth, she veers between shouting and letting others manipulate her and I have to admit that I did almost bail on the book when she gives her reason for trusting Caesar as being because he’s really attractive and has cute dimples.  I never bought into her as either a traitor or a saviour because she just didn’t have any credibility and was too much of a patsy.  Anita is under-developed as a best friend, even though the fact that her mother is part of the Resistance who persuades Amy to act should have made for some interesting dialogue.  Matilda is a two-dimensional frenemy who is ridiculously immature and never gets called out on it.

Part of the reason I was frustrated with the read is because there’s some sophisticated politics going on in the book with the revelations about the Resistance and the Splinters and their real deal terms and an off-the-cuff remark about Pronax having had prior contact with Earth’s leaders who went back on a deal, there’s a lot of potential for exploring shades of moral grey here.  Unfortunately the writing just doesn’t do that justice and although there’s a set-up for a sequel, there’s nothing here that makes me want to read it.

I AM TRAITOR was released in the United Kingdom on 7th September 2017.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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