For this week’s review, I bring you Zeroboxer, by Fonda Lee. It is a YA Sci-Fi novel set a century or three in the future, and is an action-packed sports story with a healthy dose of intrigue.
To paraphrase the best description I’ve heard: Rocky in 0G + Gattaca.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that Fonda was at Viable Paradise 18 with me, and I count her as a friend.
That doesn’t change the fact that this is a well-written, fast-paced, gripping story.
Carr “the Raptor” Luka is a rising star in the zeroboxing circuit. He is a gifted fighter, and the Zero Gravity Fighting Association selects him as a marketing tool. A couple spectacular wins and a significant sweep of strategic marketing later, Carr is the face of zeroboxing on Earth.
At which point he finds out that his straightforward life as a high-ranked zeroboxer is actually quite complicated. And precarious.
A few things stand out for me about this book:
Fonda keeps the tension up in every fight. It is a sports story, so the reader goes in with a pretty fair guess about how most of it will go, but Fonda doesn’t let the reader take anything for granted.
The fights are well described, and the mechanics of 0G fighting are well thought-out. Fonda is a martial artist herself, so she knows her stuff, and she is able to convert that into an exciting form that a layman can follow and enjoy.
The pacing is excellent. The fights are short, intense punches in a fast-moving story that has a lot of other things going on.
There are several interesting plots twining through and around Carr’s progress as a zeroboxer. There is his romance with Risha, his personal marketing manager. Risha’s father was a Martian colonist, and there are some interesting racial/genetic tensions between the Earthlings and the Martians.
There is the intrigue that I’m not going to tell you about.
There are the relationships between Carr and his fellow fighters. His role changes through the course of the story, and it is interesting to see how their relationships with him change.
As a writer, I have a problem with feeling I have to describe everything. Fonda does an excellent job hop-scotching the story along, catching all of the good bits without losing the nuance. I could learn a thing or two!
Fonda seamlessly twines interesting Sci-Fi worldbuilding throughout the story. It forms a rich background that informs the main plot without becoming intrusive.
Fonda clearly gave her future careful thought. It is there in the myriad details: how people communicate; how Mars was colonized; the current state of Earth; what life in space is like.
Everything feels plausibly and seamlessly derived from our world, without being boring or conventional. It is very impressive to have so many world-building details seem so reasonable and effortless!
Give Zeroboxer a read! And don’t expect to set the book down in the last 75 pages.