Lab Rat One continues to tell Cassandra's story, the Sydney girl that took a wrong turn and ended up on another planet. The story continues with more of her training with the Setari — psychic space ninjas — and more discovery's of the alien people's past. As with the first book, the plot is driven in large part by things unexpectedly happening to Cass, often as part of the larger experimentation with her still mysterious powers. It gave me the inescapable feeling that she is both terribly unlucky and very lucky to still be alive. She continues to almost die a lot.
The writing has gotten tighter in this volume. Whereas in book one I felt there were some slow bits, I didn't get that feeling in Lab Rat One, where everything moved things along or was hilarious. The last quarter or so of the book (roughly from the snowball fight onwards, for those familiar with it) made me giggle a lot and the very end, though slightly surprising, was well done and made me happy and keen to keep reading.
The way the romance was done (or not done) in this book appealed to me. Without spoilers, Cass has a crush (since Stray, actually) on one of the Setari but decides that a relationship between them is unlikely to happen. She spends a lot of time trying not to have a crush on him, unsuccessfully but without it getting tedious for the reader. The former aspect struck me as realistic in the circumstances. She also doesn't let her feelings get in the way of
One thing that didn't quite fit for me but I couldn't quite put my finger on when I was reading Stray is the YA label for this series. At first I put it down to the diary entry style being unusual, but I think it's more than that. Yes, Cass is eighteen so if the only requirement for YA is a teenage protagonist, it does technically fit the bill. But the story starts after she's finished school when — aliens notwithstanding — she would be starting to make her way in the world as an adult. Much as I'm not fond of the moniker, perhaps "new adult" is more apt than "young adult". Don't let either of those labels put you off though; it's first and foremost a science fiction book and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to readers of all ages. (Or if the term "science fiction" puts you off — why are you reading this blog? — my all means latch onto one of the other labels.)
I loved Lab Rat One and I couldn't not pick up the third book after I finished it (which was very inconvenient, since it was the middle of the night). For anyone who enjoyed Stray, this is a must read. If you thought Stray was kinda all right but weren't sold on reading more, I strongly encourage you to give Lab Rat One a go.
5 / 5 stars
First published: 2011
Series: Touchstone trilogy, book 2
Format read: ebook on my iThings
Source: Purchased from Smashwords
Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge, Australian Science Fiction Reading Challenge