Review by Frank Plowright
After four previous volumes of a continuing story, perhaps a recap is in order. Maximum Ride named herself when younger, one of a group of six children who believed they’d escaped the Institute and were living in seclusion. She, Angel, Fang, Gasman, Iggy and Nudge can all fly, and have gradually developed other abilities, the youngest of them able to read minds being very useful. Their escape wasn’t as absolute as they believed, and they’re now on the run from those working for the Institute, while Max is hearing voices in her head claiming to be helping her. She’s also been told her destiny is to save the world. Maximum Ride 4 ended with Max meeting her doppelganger at the ITEX Corporation. They’re very murky, and the end of this opener chapter reveals their intention to reduce the global population by 50%.
Maximum Ride thrives on creating suspense by letting readers in on something not all the cast know and James Patterson’s plot generates these revelations efficiently. Here it’s Fang being told that one of his friends has turned traitor. Is he just being manipulated? Perhaps not. If ITEX can duplicate Max, there’s no reason their science doesn’t extend to duplicating one of the others also, so it’s a credible possibility. A more imminent concern for the group is that the Erasers, so keen to chase them and capture them seem to have disappeared. There’s an inventively grim reason for that.
NaRae Lee has to convey a major emotional blow-out that reaches to the core of who Max is and why she should be compelled to follow some form of destiny, and she presents this well. As she’s become more used to the cast there’s greater nuance to the way she draws them. This also applies to the human supporting cast, with a surprise return for someone we’ve seen before.
At a greater rate than any previous volume, the revelations and shocks come thick and fast, and each is bigger than the last. Considering this is meant to be a young adult book, there’s no restraint on Patterson’s part when it comes to endangering the lead characters, yet even though they’ve been savagely attacked several times, the more cold-blooded threat they face in Maximum Ride 5 is somehow far more disturbing. Even beyond that, we learn that lifespans are intended as limited anyway.
Considerable amounts of what we’ve taken for granted about Maximum Ride are reformulated here. It’s not entirely pulling the rug away, as there is a consistency and a continuity, but it’s a thrilling change. It still leaves Max with a mission, and Maximum Ride 5 ends with another cliffhanger. This is for younger readers, as adults are more likely to have figured out a possible escape route. The truth will be revealed in Maximum Ride 6.