ARC Review: ‘Kalahari’ by Jessica Khoury

ARC Review: ‘Kalahari’ by Jessica KhouryKalahari by Jessica Khoury
Series: Corpus #3
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Published by Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated on February 24th 2015
Format: Hardcover
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Deep in the Kalahari Desert, a Corpus lab protects a dangerous secret…

But what happens when that secret takes on a life of its own?

When an educational safari goes wrong, five teens find themselves stranded in the Kalahari Desert without a guide. It’s up to Sarah, the daughter of zoologists, to keep them alive and lead them to safety, calling on survival know-how from years of growing up in remote and exotic locales. Battling dehydration, starvation and the pangs of first love, she does her best to hold it together, even as their circumstances grow increasingly desperate.

But soon a terrifying encounter makes Sarah question everything she’s ever known about the natural world. A silver lion, as though made of mercury, makes a vicious, unprovoked attack on the group. After a narrow escape, they uncover the chilling truth behind the lion’s silver sheen: a highly contagious and deadly virus that threatens to ravage the entire area—and eliminate life as they know it.

In this breathtaking new novel by the acclaimed author of Origin and Vitro, Sarah and the others must not only outrun the virus, but its creators, who will stop at nothing to wipe every trace of it.

I received access to this galley for free from the Penguin First to Read program in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Eeeep, guys, my first ARC! So excited. But anyway…

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I definitely have a soft spot for Khoury’s Corpus series. They’re more like companion books, really, but each time a new one comes out, I just know that I’ll have to read it and that I’ll really enjoy it.

Why is this? Well, because I know her books will always have a dash of romance, a couple of interesting characters, an awesome setting, some aspect of morality/depth, and most importantly, a whole heap of what I like to call…

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 4.49.50 PM… Scientist Sneakery! Yep, certainly sounds like a term I coined. What links the three books in Khoury’s series is that each stumbles upon the work of a super-secret lab funded by the Corpus company, whose experiments, well, are quite ambitious and not always for the benefit of all of humanity. 

I actually participated in a blogger panel once about the portrayal of science as ‘evil’ in Sci-Fi, and I mostly ended up writing about this series! (I also called the Corpus scientists “my favorite evil scientists,” haha!) I think I find Corpus so fascinating to read about because of how frighteningly real such a company could be. I mean really, how many Corpus-like companies could be out there??


Now, on to Corpus’ latest endeavor, in the Kalahari Desert of central Botswana…

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Khoury on a trip to the Kalahari.

While at first I was a little dubious about the setting, as I gradually gained more knowledge of it I was fascinated by the Kalahari, and how much life was to be found in the (semi)desert. Since I don’t come from an arid or dessert-like climate, this is something that I’ve only recently been learning, like during a recent trip to Joshua Tree National Park. From the Bushman’s traditional survival skills to run-ins with some of the Kalahari’s most dangerous residents (like a young, sexually frustrated bull [male] elephant!), the setting really came to life in the most vibrant of ways, and included deeper messages abut the environment.

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Is this Sarah, or Bindi? (rottentomatoes.com)

Our MC, Sarah, basically lives the life many of us imagined as kids watching the Discovery channel. She’s basically an older Bindi Irwin, if you know what I mean. She is the child of two zoologists, and has grown up riding elephants, stealing baby kangaroos, and learning to track in the Kalahari. Her cool factor is basically through the roof, even if she has a little trouble socializing with her peers (who aren’t that abundant in the Kalahari).

Besides having such a plain name, (Sarah? Really?) I think I was a little annoyed by how flat a character she seemed to be. In such a packed action story, there just doesn’t seem to be too much time for characterization. She does stand out in 2 major ways, however: in her kick-ass survival skills, and in her struggles over dealing with the recent death of her mother. Her struggles really made me sympathize with her, and her desert skills were what made me believe in her and root for her. Seriously, shoutout to anyone who can survive in the desert with practically no supplies, all while being hunted by mercenaries!

As for the other teens trying to survive the desert — characters don’t really seem to be Khoury’s strong point. But while I was pretty lukewarm about the characters in the beginning, I managed to warm up to them some, just like they did to each other throughout their crazy adventures through the Kalahari. Some of them were pretty good for providing a much-needed laugh in the face of danger.

“‘Uh . . . Guys? Is this what I think it is?’ Sam took a look, then gave a low whistle. ‘Bees?’ ‘Sickos,’ Joey muttered. ‘What do they do—sprinkle them on their cereal?'” [speaking of the Corpus scientists]

The romance, while cute enough, didn’t steal too much of my attention — it almost feels like the book didn’t really need it. In some parts, it even feels a little like insta-love, but the reason for this is revealed later. But what Sarah did definitely need was the emotional support that Sam provided, as they connected over their mutual loss of a family member. This was what I found most touching, romantic or otherwise.

“‘The pain does fade, Sarah.’ I looked up at him. His eyes were gentle and unwavering. ‘Does it?’ ‘It doesn’t go away, but one day you wake up and find it’s a part of you.'”

But of course, it is Corpus once again that steals the show. The book never really feels slow, per say, but after the group encounters a silver lion (scientist sneakery!!), everything kicks into high gear, and I couldn’t tear myself away from the rest of the book.


Though the characters are a bit weak, Kalahari‘s kick-ass setting and evil-scientist sneakery make for an entertaining read.

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