Saturday, May 03, 2014

Review: Phoenix Island by John Dixon

Phoenix Island
Author:  John Dixon
Publisher:  Gallery Books, January 7, 2014
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages
List Price:  $19.99 (print)
ISBN:  9781476738635 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

The judge told Carl that one day he’d have to decide exactly what kind of person he would become. But on Phoenix Island, the choice will be ma de for him.

A champion boxer with a sharp hook and a short temper, sixteen-year-old Carl Freeman has been shuffled from foster home to foster home. He can’t seem to stay out of trouble—using his fists to defend weaker classmates from bullies. His latest incident sends his opponent to the emergency room, and now the court is sending Carl to the worst place on earth: Phoenix Island.

Classified as a “terminal facility,” it’s the end of the line for delinquents who have no home, no family, and no future. Located somewhere far off the coast of the United States—and immune to its laws—the island is a grueling Spartan-style boot camp run by sadistic drill sergeants who show no mercy to their young, orphan trainees. Sentenced to stay until his eighteenth birthday, Carl plans to play by the rules, so he makes friends with his wisecracking bunkmate, Ross, and a mysterious gray-eyed girl named Octavia. But he makes enemies, too, and after a few rough scrapes, he earns himself the nickname “Hollywood” as well as a string of punishments, including a brutal night in the “sweatbox.” But that’s nothing compared to what awaits him in the “Chop Shop”—a secret government lab where Carl is given something he never dreamed of.

A new life. . . .

A new body. A new brain.

Gifts from the fatherly Old Man, who wants to transform Carl into something he’s not sure he wants to become.

For this is no ordinary government project. Phoenix Island is ground zero for the future of combat intelligence.

And for Carl, it’s just the beginning. . . .

Trintytwo's Point of View

Sixteen year old Carl Freeman is a hard luck case. Both of his parents are dead and he has been in and out of foster homes and juvenile courts due to his uncontrollable temper and penchant for beating up bullies. The only good thing in his life was his brief boxing career and Junior Golden Gloves title. Carl finds himself facing another assault charge. A judge in rinky-dink Dale County Juvenile Court sentences Carl to Phoenix Island, a military style boot camp, where he will serve his sentence until he turns eighteen. Carl has high hopes that this could be a fresh start, but his optimism is dashed the moment the plane lands on the remote island jungle. He is immediately singled out and harassed by a maniacal drill sergeant. Carl soon realizes that the niceties of the civilized world don’t apply on Phoenix Island. Punishments vary from harsh calisthenics to interminable stints in the sweatbox. The soldiers warn the new “recruits” that the jungle is extremely dangerous but Carl senses that the dangers in the training camp are infinitely worse.

Phoenix Island is one young man’s perilous journey for survival. Carl Freeman is smart, determined and strong. He is a survivor who, despite his flaws, is thoroughly likable. You will root for right from the start. This is Peter Pan’s lost boys on steroids, trapped on the Island of Dr. Moreau with a psycho drill sergeant pushing them beyond their limits. Carl's most lethal weapon is his determination to survive. Phoenix Island is a combination of action, horror, survival, and psychological thriller. Something black and sinister is going on behind the barracks and drills.

I didn’t think that I would like Phoenix Island as much as I did. The book has been compared to Lord of the Flies but I enjoyed it much more. The novel is fast paced and the writing is so descriptive you feel that you are experiencing all the horrors of the island for yourself. John Dixon’s debut novel is one of those books you just can’t put down. Phoenix Island is taut, gritty and a real shot of adrenaline.


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