Author: James K. Decker
Series: Haan #1
Mass Market Paperback, 384 pages
Publication: February 5, 2013 by ROC
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It’s been a rough day for Sam Shao. As part of a program that requires humans to act as surrogates to haan infants, Sam has been genetically enhanced to bond with them. So when three soldiers invade her apartment and arrest her guardian for smuggling a dangerous weapon into the country, Sam can sense that something isn’t right. One of his abductors is a haan masquerading as a human, and the supposedly fragile haan seems to be anything but.
Racing through the city slums, trying to stay one step ahead of the mysterious haan soldier, Sam tries to find the man who, in her twenty years, has been the only father she’s ever known. Could he truly have done what he is accused of? Or did he witness something both human and haan would kill to keep hidden? The only thing certain is that the weapon is real—and lost now somewhere in a city of millions.
Fighting the clock, Sam finds an ally in Nix, a haan envoy devoted to coexisting with humans, or so it seems. But what she really needs are answers. Fast. Or else everything she knows—and everyone she loves—will burn.
Sam’s main source of income is the surrogate program providing for her and her guardian/adopted father Dragan. The book starts instantly with a bang, with Dragan returning home from one of his military trips, telling Sam they must get out of Hangfei. Three military officials are after him, suspecting he brought a weapon from outside the city into Hangfei. Just when Dragan and Sam are about to flee, three soldiers breaks into their home and takes away Dragan. One of the solider was a woman, but not just any woman…she is the Haan female masquerading as a human. What Sam doesn’t understand is why a Haan female would pretend to be a human official and what are they really accusing Dragan of…looking for his wet-drive/a blue twistkey?
The Burn Zone is an intense-action thrill ride, as we follow Sam throughout the city in search of Dragan and the two children he apparently brought into the city. According to Dragan wet-drive (a video recording) the young boy, Alexei holds the answers and the key to what the Haan female was looking for the night they arrested Dragan in the apartments. Sam begins searching all over the city, dodging bullets, airbikes, and other citizens as a bounty is put on her head…but she isn’t alone. To aide Sam in her quest for Dragan is her closest friend Vamp, a techie/hacker and Nix, a Haan sent to look into the ‘Haan pretending to be human’ situation.
Sam is a likeable heroine, but not perfect. Sam had a horrible past long before Dragan rescued her from the meat market, forcing her to use med/zen oils to keep her fuzzy; dulling the bad memories. I like that she is flawed, it makes her character seem more real. She isn’t a fighter, just a normal twenty-year-old but she willing to do anything for the people she cares about, and never runs away from a fight. I also found her compassion for the Haan race refreshing, especially when the majority of the people of Hangfei despise them. The citizens blame the Haans for overpopulation and starvation, but Sam is one of the fews people that believe that Haan technology can help the people/city in the long run. Then there is Vamp and Nix. Sam met Vamp through his online contest date years ago, and though their date was a disaster they been friends ever since. He isn’t a typical male leads like most books I’ve read but is none-the-less a tough guy you don’t want to mess with. Vamp totally has a thing for Sam, just the way he talks and interacts with her, you can tell how much he cares for her. Lastly Nix, I didn’t really know what to make of him at the beginning, always hiding something and battling within himself to either really help Sam or not. Readers discover the reasons why he kept certain information from Sam about halfway through the book, and it was a big shocker…and I’m still kicking myself for not realizing it sooner lol.
The Burn Zone is a fantastic sci-fi novel with nonstop action from start to finish. Decker created an amazing realistic cast of characters, neither bad nor good but all fall within the gray zone. The world-building was impeccable, and although the city of Hangfei is fictitious...the description was so well-written that you can picture yourself there, with airbike flying over head and transportation gates lining the city. I don’t read many science fiction novels (I usually just watch sci-fi shows/movies) but this is the best sci-fi novel I’ve read to date, and I highly recommend it to everyone. Even if you don’t like sci-fi novels you should still read it because it’s that good! The last two pages of The Burn Zone had me going WTFreak, and I’m still not sure what it really means BUT I can’t wait to read the second book in the series; Move the Stars which I’m happy to report is also narrated by Sam! Please let there be more Vamp and Nix!!