Reviewed by Russell Ilg
The Rising, a sumptuously entertaining, lightning-paced romp, is a difficult book to categorize. Bestselling author Jon Land, and even bigger bestselling author Heather Graham, have joined forces to pen a tale that’s part sci-fi, part young adult, part thriller, part mystery, part romance, part—well, just take your pick.
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The amazing thing is that this genre hybrid hodgepodge works. And it works in a big way—literally, since The Rising features a pair of teenagers who are only thing standing between the world and total annihilation. One of them is Alex Chin, a blond-haired, blue-eyed, high school football hero heartthrob who’s life begins to unravel when he suffers a concussion during a playoff game. The CT scan reveals an anomaly that will ultimately send Alex on a mind-bending quest to find not only the truth that’s out there in true X-Files fashion, both about himself and the world as a whole.
Enter Alex’s fellow teenager, Samantha Dixon, his brilliant tutor trying to keep his grade point average above the Mason Dixon Line. Already an intern at NASA’s Ames Center for Astrobiology in Northern California, Sam’s dreams of becoming a scientist are temporary waylaid by joining Alex in a desperate race to find why both his doctors and parents had to die for a secret he’s been unknowingly keeping.
In a great paradigm reversal so perfect for Trumpian America, Alex’s loving Chinese parents adopted him as an infant. Or did they? Nothing in The Rising is exactly what it seems, as Graham and Land mine the best of both Robert Heinlein and Suzanne Collins in the best fashion of Terminator. Except this is no post-Apocalyptic, dystopian nightmare novel with the kind of bleak vision championed by the likes of Phillip K. Dick And that helps make it a clear candidate to be the next big pop culture phenomenon, following on the heels of Hunger Games and Twilight.
At its heart, The Rising is a story about young heroes who couldn’t be more different, but find themselves drawn together by a common purpose that’s bigger than both of them. The best part of a romance, in my mind, is watching it develop, and we’re treated to that in a fashion dignified by a romantic suspense writer of Graham’s ilk. The action scenes, especially a climactic battle staged beneath Alcatraz, on the other hand, feel like the kind of elaborate set pieces that have defined Land’s work for 40 books now. It’s also clear that neither author has a degree in quantum physics, a good thing since it prevents the book from dissolving into a mumbo-jumbo driven mess.
So don’t try to categorize The Rising. Just go out and enjoy the hell out of this wild ride that writes more rules than it follows. In my mind, Graham and Land are better together than they are apart, their pairing having fashioned a rare treat of manically paced messaging. Brilliant in all respects and an early candidate for everyone’s Best of List for 2017.