The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

November 14, 2010

Cari Rerat, book review: Unique alien invasion traps people inside

By Cari Rerat
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — POD

By Stephen Wallenfels

For teens




Book covers are tricky business. I know we all like to think that we don’t judge books by their covers, but we do. “POD’s” cover, a two-toned blue silhouette of some houses, is less than exciting, but I couldn’t resist this survival sci-fi thriller.

Truth be told, I’m a sucker for survival/disaster fiction. For some reason, nothing gives me more chills than thinking about what will happen when the world as we know it comes to an end. Will we have enough food? How long will the electricity hold? Will we have to leave town? Will we have enough gas?

“POD” did not disappoint. It’s a good, quick read for anyone who likes to scare themselves with the what-ifs.

Day one begins with a terrible screeching inside the heads of all human beings. After the screeching ends, hundreds of PODs, or pearls of death, descend from the sky and hover above the treetops.

Once they’re settled, the PODs begin spinning and zapping all the people and motorized vehicles found outside. Once someone or something is zapped, it’s completely vaporized Ñ like it has been deleted. The PODs will delete anyone who ventures outside even for a fraction of a second, leaving everyone trapped in whatever structure they find themselves in when the screeching begins.

The story alternates between Josh, an almost 16-year-old living in Washington state, and Megs, a savvy 12-year-old in a hotel parking garage in Los Angeles, as they figure out how to survive the PODs along with the people they are stuck with while the PODs loom overhead.

Josh’s mother is away at a conference, leaving him with his very analytical father. Josh and his dad have very different views of what they should do now that the PODs have descended. Josh figures that everyone is doomed, so they might as well relax and live it up as best they can.

But his father begins making lists Ñ how many PODs are outside each morning, how much food they have, etc. He also begins making plans like how they’ll ration their supplies and, even more disturbingly, what they’ll have to do once their supplies run out.

Megs, on the other hand, is alone her mother’s car in the hotel parking garage. Her mother left to find money to fill their gas tank and buy breakfast just before the PODs come.

Megs has to figure out how to survive on the few supplies left in her car and how to get to the supplies she knows must be in the cars around her. She decides against going into the hotel with its scary and violent security force. She’s much better in the cars as long as no one in the hotel figures out she’s there.

The alternating chapters are brief and move the action along very compellingly. While more time is spent with Megs’ story, the book remains balanced. Josh’s perspective is understandably not as intense as Megs’ but is an interesting view of what many people would go through during such a crisis.

The tension builds through 28 days as both sets of characters face the harsh realities of not being able to leave the shelter of the buildings they are in. We never find out why the PODs have come to Earth or why they aren’t attacking people inside buildings, but that only adds to the suspense.

The book ends with the promise of at least one sequel (the publisher promises a trilogy, but has no release dates yet). I am hopeful that a second book will keep up the pace of “POD” because good cover or not, this one was a page turner!