Saturday, August 13, 2022

REVIEW: ISAN: International Sensory Assassin Network (book) by Mary Ting

ISAN is YA sci-fi romance. I bought my copy brand new.


After her mother's death, Ava ended up in foster care, and then juvenile detention. Her life might have continued on a downward spiral if it weren't for Russ's arrival. He selected her to join ISAN (International Sensory Assassin Network), a secretive organization that supposedly helps the world by quietly assassinating particular people. Not that Ava knows much about the reasons behind her assignments. She does as she's told because she doesn't really have any other choices - ISAN is her only home now, and she can't leave except for brief recreational outings in which she and the others on her team are always closely watched. 

Ava and her team complete regular "mental missions," virtual reality practice missions in which the girls accustom themselves to fighting and killing, achieving particular goals within time limits, and, most importantly, learning how to use their HelixB77 serum-enhanced senses and abilities. The serum makes them stronger, faster, and more fearless. It also gives certain girls, Ava included, special abilities - Ava can see a map of her surroundings in her head and, occasionally, dots that tell her where certain things and people are located.

Ava's world is thrown into disarray when she's somehow contacted by a guy who calls himself Sniper. She's intrigued by him (honestly, she's intrigued by anyone male who either is or might potentially be attractive) but also wary, because no one from the outside world is supposed to be able to contact anyone in ISAN or vice versa. When she finally meets Sniper, she's left with more questions than answers. He claims that they used to know each other, but if that's true, why doesn't she remember him?

This was one of my Book Bonanza 2019 purchases. It was unfortunately an excruciating read.

I was expecting a fast-paced action/adventure story about competent young assassins. Instead, I got a bunch of teenage girls who trained constantly but didn't actually seem to be improving much. Assassination assignments didn't seem to be given on the basis of successful mental mission completion, and despite all the mental missions, every real-world assignment came across like the girls were only a few steps away from just winging it, with their primary advantage being their serum-enhanced senses and abilities.

I wasn't expecting the ISAN girls to be so catty. On Ava's team, Justine was the worst - she acted like she'd never done anything as part of a team in her whole life, and instead of scrapping her and moving on to the next potential recruit, for some reason ISAN just put up with her. And wow were the girls horny. They were guaranteed to pant over any reasonably attractive guy in their vicinity, and of course two of the adults in charge just happened to fit the bill. Ava was no exception, which made a later scene with Sniper/Rhett, in which she wondered about her immediate reaction to him, laughable - her reaction to Sniper/Rhett didn't seem any different, and certainly no more special, than her reaction to Russ or Mitch.

The world-building wasn't done well at all. I didn't bother to reread the back of the book before starting it, so for much of the beginning of the book I assumed ISAN was a secret organization in a contemporary setting. There really wasn't much to indicate otherwise - Ava used something called a TAB that sounded like a tablet, and there were mentions of the girls using Tasers (although they seemed to operate differently than I'd have expected). It wasn't until well into the book that it was mentioned that meteors had devastated the planet at some point in the past.

It was a relief when I finally managed to finish this. Although it ended with a bit of a cliffhanger and a bunch of unanswered questions, I have no intention of reading the next book.

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