Swarm: Zeroes 2 by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti (Allen & Unwin) PB RRP $19.99
Reviewed by Daniela Andrews
They are not heroes, but Zeroes – teenagers born in the year 2000, each with a special power. Swarm is the second novel in this exciting young adult trilogy. It is also the code name for a terrifying, super-powered teen intent on finding and killing other Zeroes.
Trying to put the ‘Summer of Suck’ behind them, the Zeroes have opened up an illegal nightclub together. Cleverly named the ‘Petri Dish’, it’s essentially a training arena where they can practise their powers. But their actions in the first novel didn’t go unnoticed. Two new Zeroes are in town, flaunting their sinister superpowers with little regard for civilians (‘dolls’). It turns out they are fleeing another Zero, an evil killer who will ‘chew up anyone who’s got a power’ … and they’ve deliberately diverted his attention to the club owners. Bullied as a child, Swarm is angry. His power can turn an ordinary crowd of people into a mob of zombies who will violently rip apart a victim at his will. He wants to kill every Zero bar one, whom he wants to join forces with instead.
Swarm is written by the same trio of authors who wrote Zeroes: Scott Westerfeld, (bestselling author of the Leviathan trilogies), Margo Lanagan (winner of four World Fantasy Awards), and Deborah Biancotti (Aurealis-shortlisted author).
The sequel has a far more supernatural feel than the first novel. In Zeroes, their major enemies were people. In Swarm, their enemy has a superpower. The prequel spent a lot of time exploring the characters and their powers, without moving far from the action. Swarm successfully does the same. Much has changed for the characters since the previous summer and their mental states are not ignored. (Kelsie, for example, is mourning her father and suffering from a post-traumatic stress disorder.) The connection between the two novels is strong and, as a result, the characters have grown. Their powers have grown also … the sequel allows them to explore the darker sides of their powers, how to invert their powers, and how to ‘level up’. It will be interesting to see where the authors take the story in the next book!