Author: Andrew Wichland

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (June 29, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1720625689
ISBN-13: 978-1720625681

As I rarely intentionally spend time with YA novels,  I haven’t really thought about what elements characterize such books. Now that I’ve read the first volume of Andrew Wichland’s Wild Hearts,  I’m pretty sure one feature of his fiction is likely typical in sci-fi or fantasy books crafted for young readers. Wish fulfillment.

In the case of Wichland,   it’s easy to see how his autism led to a special interest in disabilities. In Wild Hearts, his use of amazingly powerful cyber-suits goes far beyond anything Tony Stark ever imagined. They literally give eyesight to one blind character; they also give one girl bound to her wheelchair legs to walk on. For a generation fixated on what technology can do, it’s not surprising Wichland’s cyber-suits can do all manner of wonderous things from sprouting weapons to flying to absorbing desirable traits from animal DNA.

Wichland tells his story by interweaving two parallel plotlines. Both are revealed by two different first-person narrators. One is Commander Ian Erik Dregan who leads a crew of intergalactic warriors who get engaged in a starship battle with the evil Wraiths. They find themselves sent to our planet 5,000 years in their past where their bodies grow younger.  

The other narrator is Alec, the main figure I associated with wish fulfillment. He’s a high school student who, along with his group of friends, is subject to the authoritative will of a principal who inflicts unjust detention on them and they endure parents who ground them for various offences. As they go through such typical high school travails, wearing their newly acquired cyber-suits, they find themselves drawn into deadly duels with the conquering Wraiths and become key warriors drawn into not just saving earth, but  the galaxy as a whole. Along the way, the teenagers meet helpful winged angel-like creatures and less than helpful walking lizards. Strangely, the band of students seem to be the only earth-born humans aware of these extra-terrestrials, discover elaborate underground chambers, and see all the carnage left behind by  the battles between Wraiths and their enemies.

Of course, in such action/ adventure romps, nothing is supposed to be taken too seriously. There’s rather thin character development as the implausible action never pauses for a second. In publicity for his books, Wichland claims that back in high school, science fiction and fantasy gave him escape from a world he apparently didn’t fit into very well.       Wild Hearts certainly reflects that. It’s pure escapism. There’s no social commentary, no analogues with current events.

It’s clear this volume is but the first of a series as it ends with a cliff-hanger with many unanswered questions.   One question for me was, where are these “wild hearts” of the title?  I never figured that out. We know Commander Dregan has a missing wife who disappeared 13 years ago. Since that point was brought up several times, readers might presume something will be made of that sometime in the series. But not volume one.

In short, Wild Hearts should appeal to young readers of sci-fi who like fast-paced action-adventure full of imaginative spectacle that isn’t demanding reading. It’s a short read so is suitable for hot summer nights when school isn’t in session.