- my rating: 3.5 stars
- published by: Tu Books
- genres: dystopian, sci-fi
- diverse: yes
After a great war, the East Pacific is in ruins. In brutal Neo Seoul, where status comes from success in combat, ex-gang member Lee Jaewon is a talented pilot rising in the ranks of the academy. Abandoned as a kid in the slums of Old Seoul by his rebel father, Jaewon desires only to escape his past and prove himself a loyal soldier of the Neo State.
When Jaewon is recruited into the most lucrative weapons development division in Neo Seoul, he is eager to claim his best shot at military glory. But the mission becomes more complicated when he meets Tera, a test subject in the government’s supersoldier project. Tera was trained for one purpose: to pilot one of the lethal God Machines, massive robots for a never-ending war.
With secret orders to report on Tera, Jaewon becomes Tera’s partner, earning her reluctant respect. But as respect turns to love, Jaewon begins to question his loyalty to an oppressive regime that creates weapons out of humans. As the project prepares to go public amidst rumors of a rebellion, Jaewon must decide where he stands—as a soldier of the Neo State, or a rebel of the people.
Pacific Rim meets Korean action dramas in this mind-blowing, New Visions Award-winning science fiction debut
I was very excited to read Rebel Seoul, which was pitched as a blend of Pacific Rim and Korean Dramas. I’ve seen lots of hype for this book, especially from Korean reviewers and so I was very excited to get an arc of this book. Although I didn’t love Rebel Seoul, I still liked it. I still really appreciate the #ownvoices elements of the story and the setting. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to connect to the characters which effected my reading.
My favourite thing about Rebel Seoul was definitely the setting. In this futuristic world, the Great War of the Pacific was fought between the East Asian nations, which eventually led to the creation of the Neo Council – a body which presides over all East Asian states and makes decisions on behalf of them. Following this unification, a war was waged between The East and The West, which was won by the East, solidifying the Neo-State. Now, a third war is being waged, between the Neo State, and rebels who seek to undermine and dismantle the regime. I loved the world building, and how the setting was described. The inclusion of other elements such as gangs, virtual reality simulations of military situations, and the God Machines also contributed to me really enjoying the setting.
Rebel Seoul is also incredibly racially diverse. Every character who appears is of East Asian descent. The main character is of South Korean heritage, as are the majority of characters he interacts with. There is also one character who’s explicitly said to be Japanese and one said to be Chinese. Unfortunately however, there was no lgbt+ representation, if anyone was wondering.
I was incredibly engaged in the first 100 pages. The explanation of the world and how it unfolded was really interesting, there was some really cool action sequences, and the stakes were really high! I was really intrigued.
Unfortunately, after the first 100 pages I began to run into some issues with characters and character development. The main character is quite well developed, but I found the side characters to be not nearly as developed. It was hard to grasp or understand the motivations of the majority of the characters. I felt that the female characters, who had great potential, were regaled to being love interests. The romance that appears was unconvincing to me, and since most of the romance happens off screen it was hard to grasp and believe the relationship.
I found the middle of Rebel Seoul dragged quite a bit. The plot seemed to be put on hold while the characters interacted and ultimately I found myself really bored. I wasn’t invested in the characters at all, and the way the plot developed left me confused. I wasn’t sure which plot threat to follow. I think Rebel Seoul had issues in the middle with trying to be too many things at once.
I was really glad the last 100 pages picked up a lot more. The action returned, and the book seemed to get black onto it’s central plot. I only had one issue with the last one hundred pages, that the villain had the (SPOILER) “a girl rejected me and I want revenge” trope/motivation. (SPOILER END) I really hate this trope so I was a little disappointed when it cropped up. I was also a bit disappointed I guessed the plot twists well before the reveal.
However, on a final positive note, I did think the ending/epilogue was great! The stories were well wrapped up and checked in with each character. I think that the conclusion was quite satisfying and that Axie Oh did a good job in gathering all the plot threads up and giving them a good ending.
Personally, I was a little disappointed with Rebel Seoul. Although it didn’t have any glaring issues, I personally just found it difficult to connect to the characters which impacted my reading. However, just going to the Goodreads page you can see I am very much in the minority with this review – most loved it! I’ve also seen a lot of hype from Korean reviewers about the representation.
I wish I had loved this book, I really do, but I find it very difficult to love books if I don’t love the characters.
Overall, Rebel Seoul is an incredibly diverse book set in an amazing setting. The world of Neo-Seoul will suck you right in, and you’ll find yourself loving being among the characters of this world.