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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I want to read the next part!
Benson Fisher has spent his life in the care system bouncing from foster family to foster family and from school to school. On his own initiative he applies for a scholarship to Maxfield Academy and when he is accepted he believes that his troubles are behind him - how wrong could he be? Maxfield Academy is an old dilapidated building surrounded by a razor wire fence...
Published on 11 Jan 2012 by I Readalot

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars DAS EXPERIMENT meets BLADE RUNNER for teens
Benson Fisher's spent most of his life in foster care in Pennsylvania. Determined to make a future for himself he applies for a scholarship to Maxfield Academy in the mountains of New Mexico only to find a school surrounded by razor wire and a 12-foot high wall. There are no teachers of any kind and video cameras constantly monitor the students who've divided themselves...
Published on 31 Dec 2011 by I Read, Therefore I Blog


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars DAS EXPERIMENT meets BLADE RUNNER for teens, 31 Dec 2011
This review is from: Variant (Paperback)
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Benson Fisher's spent most of his life in foster care in Pennsylvania. Determined to make a future for himself he applies for a scholarship to Maxfield Academy in the mountains of New Mexico only to find a school surrounded by razor wire and a 12-foot high wall. There are no teachers of any kind and video cameras constantly monitor the students who've divided themselves into three gangs - Society (who enforce the confusing and inconsistent school rules), Havoc (who rebel against the rules) and Variant (who play by their own rules).

Benson resolves to escape even though every other student who's tried has either failed or died in the attempt. As he gathers information about the school and its operations, he grows closer to some of the other students - especially Jane, a pretty red-haired member of Variant. But one night Benson unwittingly discovers the school's most sinister secret - a secret that will leave him wondering who he can trust and whether escape will ever be possible ...

Robison Wells's debut YA novel is a science fiction/thriller hybrid set in contemporary times - essentially DAS EXPERIMENT meets BLADERUNNER.

Although the central idea is an interesting one, Wells took so long establishing the premise of an inescapable school so that I was slightly bored by the time the first big reveal came. Afterwards, the pace speeds up to breakneck speed but instead of giving a pay off on the big reveal, the reader's instead left with a cliff hanger (which is a personal peeve).

Despite Benson's first person narration, he never really came off the page for me, being reduced to little more than providing exposition on the plot and set-up. His relationship with Jane failed to convince me as there's little there to explain his attraction to her beyond her looks and the fact that she welcomes his advances. The other students were largely names on a page and I sometimes found it difficult to remember who was who. Those who I did remember were painted in such broad brushstrokes that they became caricature - with the exception of Becky, a Society student with a hidden past.

I am interested in the central idea in the book and would like to see where Wells goes with it in the sequel, but I'm hoping that now he's dealt with all the set-up, there'll be more action and more of a pay-off to come.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars sci-fi thriller, 26 Mar 2012
By 
H. Ashford "hashford" (Sheffield, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Variant (Paperback)
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Ever jumped at an opportunity and then regretted it? Benson is fed up with moving from one foster family and school to another; so when he gets a scholarship to Maxfield Academy he thinks this is a great opportunity to start a new life. However, when he gets there, he finds not is all as it seemed; and what's more, he is trapped. there.

The plot focuses on Benson's friendship with Jane, and on his attempts to escape. It is fact paced and has plenty of twists and turns; perhaps as a result of the pace, the characterisations aren't as fully fleshed out as I would like.

An interesting aspect of the book is how the pupils organise themselves in the absence of adult supervision and the interplay between the three main factions:
- society - who obey, and try to enforce, the rules
- havoc - who ignore and break the rules
- variant - who make up their own rules.

I did enjoy this book as an interesting example of YA dystopian fiction - a genre I read a lot of. However, I didn't feel it that it is strong enough to really hold the adult reader.

And I give it a big black mark for ending on a cliff-hanger. I HATE books that suck you in and then leave you hanging. If the story isn't complete in this one book, then it should say so on the cover!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I want to read the next part!, 11 Jan 2012
By 
I Readalot (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Variant (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Benson Fisher has spent his life in the care system bouncing from foster family to foster family and from school to school. On his own initiative he applies for a scholarship to Maxfield Academy and when he is accepted he believes that his troubles are behind him - how wrong could he be? Maxfield Academy is an old dilapidated building surrounded by a razor wire fence and high walls, he is driven there by Ms Vaughan who leaves him at the entrance then quickly drives away to be chased by 2 of the pupils, one of them whispering a warning to Benson as he runs passed him. It is a school with no teachers and where the pupils have organised themselves into gangs in order to survive. The pupils all have one thing in common, there is no-one on the outside to miss them. There are many odd rules and varying degrees of punishment for transgressors, the most serious of which is detention from which no-one returns. Benson quickly realises that he is trapped there and immediately makes plans to escape. On the night of the school dance he makes a terrifying discovery which means that he doesn't know who he can trust anymore but it also makes him even more determined to get out. However the true secret behind the school is even more frightening than Benson could ever have imagined. The book ends on a cliff hanger and I defy anyone who enjoys this book not to immediately put the next volume on their wish list, secrets may have been revealed but there are obviously many more secrets and twists still to come. Within the confines of this dark and sometimes violent novel it is also a coming of age story, a story about young people desperate to fit in and find their place in the world. It is a YA book but I am sure that many adults will enjoy it as well, long past my YA years I almost finished it in one sitting. Particularly recommended for fans of 'The Hunger Games' - Suzanne Collins and 'The Maze Runner' - James Dashner.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Society, Variant or Havoc... what would you choose?, 1 Dec 2011
This review is from: Variant (Paperback)
Before being sent this book, I hadn't even heard of it. Once I read what it was about though, I couldn't wait to read it... even though it was set in a school.

Having this story told by Benson, the main character, was extremely refreshing. There aren't too many YA books that I can think of that are told from a male perspective and I loved the change. Many people who read my reviews know how much I hate a whiney female MC so to begin with, I was glad to know I wasn't going to get that with this book. Benson has had a pretty rough life, being in and out of foster care so he thought this scholarship was going to be his perfect getaway. He couldn't have been more wrong.

What I loved about Benson was that he was unlike any of the other students at school. They are all already set into their different groups and even though Benson knows he has to join one of them, he isn't happy about it and isn't afraid to let that be known. He is a very vocal character who fights for what he believes in and this shows his strength and determination well. Right from the beginning, I was routing for Benson and I desperately wanted to see him succeed. Not only is Benson strong but he appears to be quite fearless at the same time. No matter what was happening, he still had his goals in place and was determined to make them happen, even if there was the treat of death... more than once!

This new school that Benson finds himself now trapped in has a very specific way of life. There are strict rules enforced with insane punishments if you happen to disobey them. As I said earlier, the school's students have also set up groups: Society, Variant and Havoc. The Society people enforce every single rule and never do anything wrong - they believe following the rules is for the best. Havoc is the gang that can 'beat the crap out of anyone' and Variants are everyone else. The ones that don't want to play the game. I loved the way that the school was sectioned up and each group's reason for being the way that they were. The Variant and Society gangs are shown more than Havoc which was understandable, considering how the story goes, but I would have liked for it to be more well rounded.

This book is described as dystopian but I don't really agree with this label. I can see why it is I guess but the book is set in near enough modern day but it is really the twist that warrants the label. I obviously wont say what the twist is but it is MASSIVE! I wasn't expecting this at all and it seemed like it came out of no where all of a sudden. The way that the twist is written into the story was fantastic and no one will ever be able to see it coming I don't think. From here, the story really gets exciting, even though it was beforehand anyway. The action really starts here and a lot about the school is revealed. There is also a pretty big cliff-hanger which made me desperately want the next book straight away.

I was not expecting the genius that is Variant at all and I wish I had read it sooner. Well's writing is fresh, invigorating and damn exciting!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Well Written, 12 Jan 2013
This review is from: Variant (Paperback)
Its a very well written book. The concept was good and the creativity was in teh right places. It actually reminds me of 'The Maze Runner'. If you liked this book, the Maze Runner would be a good follow up read
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4.0 out of 5 stars AAAAGH for cliff-hanger!!, 14 May 2012
By 
Moonless (London Town) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Variant (Paperback)
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This is a great, suspenseful read that keeps you turning the pages until the end - and that's when you will feel the biggest let down, as the ending - with its huge twist - turns the entire book into a cliff-hanger!

Let's start with the good: the story keeps you wanting to know more - Benson Fisher decides to make a new life for himself and applies for a scholarship to Maxfield Academy. When he arrives, Benson finds that things are not at all what they seem. One thing all the students have in common is that no one will be looking for them on the outside if they are never seen again. That's because all the pupils are loners or foster children who have no family or close friends. That's just one of the things that Benson realises is a bit strange - and there is plenty more, but that would be a giveaway! Suffice to say that you will be hooked by the plot, the twists and turns, the fear and shocks as Benson struggles to fit in while conversely trying to find a way out.

However, while it is full of suspense and surprise, the ending is a real let down! What I mean by this is that you are left with rather more questions than answers with an ending that just creates more mystery and a massive question mark. The ending says `end of book one' which I did not realise before I ordered it. I think many other series work well (Harry Potter, Twilight) by making each book a standalone in its own right.

`Variant' in itself is incomplete: you won't get many answers or neat plot tie-ups. If, like me, you will feel more dissatisfied than excited about a sequel, I would recommend waiting till book two comes out later in the year before reading book one and read them sequentially!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Variant - Where Rules are a Matter of Life and Death, 6 May 2012
By 
Wobette (The Wild West) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Variant (Paperback)
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Benson Fisher just wants to take control of his life and his destiny, after years of moving from one foster home to another, often after only months, once after just hours. He sees Maxfield Academy as his way out so he applies for a scholarship and the story begins with his arrival.

From his first conversation with Becky, the student orientation counselor, he discovers this is a place of rules, of gangs, of points... which can buy survival and of punishments which can lead to death... But without adults - teachers or administrators.

He is "Chipped" which restricts where he can go and is encouraged to select a Gang, this choice will determine the jobs he will do around the school and therefore the points he earns. It will also determine the social group he will share a dorm with as well as eat and study with. His choices are The Society - who live by and enforce the rules, Havoc who reject authority and Variant, who make their own rules up.

Benson spends his first days learning the ropes and learning the rules, he attends the unusual lessons, learns the basics of Paintballing... and mets Jane.

... Then his fellow pupils start to go missing and he can't get the answers he wants...

Variant starts strong, the characters are believable and the story moves along at a pace with twists and turns... and that hides its final secret to the last couple of pages. But it does finish on a huge Cliff Hanger which feels a little frustrating after spending the whole book building to it. But it is worth it - even if you have to hang on for the next book which is due for release later in 2012
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3.0 out of 5 stars Great twist, 27 April 2012
This review is from: Variant (Paperback)
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I thought the premise for this book was really interesting. A boy with no family or friends to speak of seeks to leave his most recent foster family through applying for a scholarship at an exclusive private school. He gets the place and heads off, hoping for friends and stability.

Almost as soon as Benson arrives at Maxfield Academy he realizes that he has made a mistake. The walls are far too imposing, the fence is topped with razor wire, and the minute the front door to the school opens, two students burst out and try to chase down the car he arrived in, which is high tailing it out of there.

Benson finds out he has voluntarily walked into a maximum security prison of a school. There are lessons, but the students deliver them. In fact, they do all the chores. A mysterious authority gives out points for work and punishments for rule breaking... detention is something no one ever comes back from.

Under the oppressive atmosphere, Benson tries to make friends and figure out a way to escape - something which no one seems to have ever done to any success, although many have died trying. He also wants to know why he is imprisoned... and it is a heck of a secret.

I didn't really connect with any of the characters at all, and I found Benson quite selfish, but the mystery kept me going. It would be fair to say that I was quite stunned at the truth when it was revealed; it is a totally stellar twist and I totally didn't see it coming. That really raised the stakes for me and I was then totally hooked.

I wouldn't say that this is one to rush to get to, but it was a fun read and the twist is one of the best I've read. It certainly has me interested in the sequel now, whereas I would not have been before the truth was revealed. My hope for the next one is that the characters all gain a little more depth and a few shades of grey.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Original idea but let down by the ending, 26 April 2012
By 
S. Diment "sue_diment" (Wolverhampton, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Variant (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
"Variant" is another example of the increasingly popular genre of young adult (YA) sci-fi. It begins promisingly, with a central character, Benson Fisher, who applies to a private school under a scholarship programme, to escape his unpleasant life in foster care. Unfortunately, when he arrives he soon discovers Maxfield Academy is more of a prison than a school, with no teachers, and a rather random selection of rules, applied by the students themselves. The main rule is that escape is not allowed, punishable by detention. At Maxwell Academy though, students in detention are never seen again. There are three factions of students in the school, each with a slightly different outlook on the best way to handle their strange situation.

The book has some similarities in storyline with "Lord of the Flies" in that the students must manage their own peculiar situation, with no adults to assist them. Alas, this book lacks some of the finer points of its classic counterpart. I struggled to distinguish the students from one another, and found myself flicking back to earlier points in the story to remind myself of where we had met the same student before. The three factions are fairly distinguishable, but not the individuals. Benson himself is fairly clearly drawn, although his relationships with some of the other students seem a bit weak. His attraction to Jane seems to occur very suddenly, without much in the way of early hints that anything is likely to happen.

After a rather slow start, constantly re-emphasizing the fact that no-one ever escapes from the school (to the point where surely even the most obtuse reader must have got the message!), the pace begins to pick up, and there is a surprising twist in the story. From then on, I read the book with increasing interest, right up until the last few chapters, when I began to realise the plot clearly wasn't going to be wrapped up in this novel. Then the book ended on a major cliffhanger (and another major plot twist).

Whilst I accept that a lot of the recent Young Adult sci-fi novels are trilogies, or have planned sequels (such as "Delerium" by Lauren Oliver, or "The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins), this one isn't flagged as being the first in a series of books by the publisher in the blurb on the book, which is annoying. The real failure though, is that I don't think the book actually works as a stand-alone novel (making the publishers decision not to actively advertise that it is part of a series even more unforgiveable). With the central character left in an uncertain situation, and the main themes of the book completely unanswered, there's no reason to read this book unless you plan to read the sequel (due out in October 2012, six months away at the time of writing this review). If this book sounds like something you would enjoy, I'd advise waiting until the next one comes out - there's not enough to be gained from reading this one on its own, and I suspect that read in conjunction with the sequel, it may turn out to be a much more worthwhile read overall.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Courtesy of A Trillian Books, 20 Mar 2012
By 
Amazon Customer (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Variant (Paperback)
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Variant is can easily be compared to books such as Lord of the Flies and The Maze Runner and is every bit as good as both of those. Benson is a character who's really easy to like. Often I find in this kind of book, the protagonist is either completely clueless of what's going on around them or they figure it out straight away. Thankfully, Benson is neither of these. He questions everything that's strange about Maxfield Academy but he still struggles to work out what is happening and while he is determined to escape, he also has moments where he wonders if it's just easier to go along with it. It's easy to relate to his emotions as the story progresses, feeling his frustrations and confusion along with him.

The only slight problem I had with the book was that I didn't realise it was part of a series and so I was expecting it to be all tied up by the end. It wasn't until I had about twenty pages left that I thought "Okay, this isn't going to be finished" and then I had a look on the Internet and discovered there's to be a sequel. Mostly this is a good thing as I definitely want to read more about this world and it's characters but I was a little frustrated that I didn't get the answers I'd been waiting for - especially as the book ends on a pretty big cliffhanger.

A definite enjoyable read. just don't expect to understand exactly what is going on by the end of this installment.
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Variant by Robison Wells (Paperback - 20 Nov 2011)
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