Book Review: ZEROBOXER by Fonda Lee



Flux, April 8, 2015

Preorder: AMAZON, B&N


A high-action sci-fi about a young man battling to make it to the top in the world of zero gravity prizefighting, amid brewing interplanetary conflict, pitched as Rocky meets Gattaca.

Eighteen-year-old Carr “the Raptor” Luka is an athletic phenom, a rising star in the weightless combat sport of zeroboxing. Training and competing aboard the lunar orbiting city-station of Valtego (where It’s More Fun on the Dark Side TM), all he’s ever wanted is to win the championship title.

His talent and marketability don’t go unnoticed by the top brass of the Zero Gravity Fighting Association. They assign him a brandhelm; after all, anyone who wants to be anyone needs a dedicated personal marketing strategist. Beautiful and ambitious, Risha is one of the genetically engineered Martian colonists that Earth dwellers view with resentment and suspicion. It isn’t long before she’s made Carr into a popular celebrity, and stolen his heart along the way.

But success could be the worst thing that happens to them. As his fame grows, Carr must come to terms with the fact that he’s become an inspirational hero on Earth, a once-great planet now angry at falling into the shadow of its more prosperous colonies. When Carr learns of a far-reaching criminal scheme, he becomes the keeper of a devastating personal secret. Not only will his choices place into jeopardy everything he holds dear, they may spill the violence from the sports arena out into the solar system.



“Victory was a better high than a hundred bliss bombs. Perfect and real, lasting for days, even weeks, before being polished and stored in its own special nook of the soul, each win in his collection unique and everlasting, wanting nothing except more neighbors.” – Carr “The Raptor” Luka

Zeroboxer landed on the top of my TBR list for 2015 for several reasons:

First: the cover (which I though were headdress-like masks initially) was FABULOUS. FYI – those are wings on the front, NOT masks a la Stargate on the cover. Either way, it’s cool.

Second: the description, which pitched it as a sci-fi twist on Rocky. Let me tell ya, no one is a bigger Battlestar Galactica / Star Trek fan than moi, so the setting hooked me.

Third: I’m a huge fan of great sports films (I know – go figure, I ride horses and haven’t seen Secretariat).

Zeroboxer surprised me, but in a good way. It wasn’t what I was expecting.

In fact, if I compared Zeroboxer to anything, it brings to mind the themes in Any Given Sunday, The Fighter, and Million Dollar Baby. I loved all three films.

The story follows Carr, a young, brilliant zeroboxer from Earth whose star is on the rise. He is jaw-dropping in the cube (aka the zerogravity cage), riding high on his fame and taken under the wing of a Martian zeroboxing association giant, Bax Gant. He is assigned a Martian brandhelm, the beautiful Risha, who becomes a love interest (FYI – the romance is a very, VERY distant secondary story, so don’t think this is a romance AT ALL, although there is some nudity mentioned). Soon Carr’s world comes crashing down when he realizes he is a pawn and his zeroboxing days are numbered . . . and jail (or worse) may loom in the future if he is not careful.

This story, at its core, is about a young athlete’s love of the game and the struggle to come to terms with its darker, corrupted side . . . but that’s not exactly what the teaser says. I didn’t see Risha as “ambitious” (a word that pulls a negative undertone in the teaser), I didn’t get some horrible conflict between earth and the Martian colonist (they’re a bit pissed, but eh), and I didn’t get anything in regards to the violence from the sports arena spilling into the solar system (there is a throw down in the arena and a fisticuff at the embassy, but nothing like WWII).

So, after reading the teaser, I went into the book thinking that this was going to be a story about a young star’s rise in the Zeroboxing world amid corruption, but that he and his Martian brandhelm discover a plot that will ignite a war between races (Terrans and Martians) and he must choose which side to stand with.

This is totally NOT that story, BUT what I read was still AWESOME.

Fonda Lee’s vividly imagined world of weightless cage fighters is PERFECT for any older male teen who is obsessed with sports. In fact, I was recommending Zeroboxer yesterday to a young man I knew who adores Fight Club. I’ve been talking it up with the bookstores near me, who often stock whatever I recommend, especially since this book (unlike any other I’ve read) is IDEAL for those reluctant male readers. Zeroboxer is the literary form of those video games that male teenagers adore, igniting their own desire to win and keep them reading late into the night in the hopes that Carr will succeed in life and in the cube.

Lee’s story of fierce determination in the brutal sport of zerogravity cage-fighting, will no doubt be the top pick of 2015 for every teenage boy who ever fought their way to the top, and put all they had on the line.

Zeroboxer is a epic victory dance for every parent who is seeking that one, unputdownable story for their teenage son.





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