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     Lakes Of Mars by Merritt Graves starts out like Ender's Game on speed. Throw in some language reminiscent of Boondock Saints, and brace yourself.

     Aaron Sheridan joined the Fleet in order to die in the war, but to his surprise, he is sent to a mysterious officer's training school instead. Once there, he quickly realizes that things are not as they seem, and it becomes increasingly difficult to know who to trust. Despite the stress, fights, drug sub-culture, and cruel or absent instructors, Aaron falls in love with fellow student Eve, only to discover that her life is in danger. What's more, are all of the instructors in on some kind of grand cover-up or conspiracy against the rest of the Fleet? These questions plague Aaron as he struggles to keep himself and his friends alive.

     Lakes Of Mars is a fast-paced read, but it lags a bit in the middle. Part two could certainly be condensed, as there is a feeling of wanting to finally get to part three and figure out what on Earth (or in space) is going on. For the most part, the book was well-described, but there was a lack of character description as far as physical attributes. I often found myself wondering what the characters looked like, rather than just having a name and very little or no “look” at them. There was a lot of telling that could have been replaced with showing, although some of this did give us insights into Aaron's back story and his mind. My pet peeve with the book is that Aaron's name was hardly used, and I had trouble remembering it until I'd read seventy-five percent of the novel. The author, Graves, also uses a lot of less-accessible vocabulary that younger readers may have to look up, but then again, this is sci-fi, and not your summer beach read. The title and the book cover could both be spiced up—it was the tag line and description that caught my attention.

     The book ends just short of a cliff-hanger, clearing paving the way for a sequel. Despite the slow mid-point, I read the entire book in only a few days, eager to finally get to the bottom of things. Graves' writing needs some editing, but he did have me in tears at one point, and at the edge of my seat in many other places, leading me to rate this book 3.5 out of 5 stars.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided by the author through NetGalley. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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