Degrade (Tesla Expansion) by Mark Lingane

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Degrade (Tesla Expansion) by Mark Lingane

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Building on his original Tesla series, Degrade finds us a new central character for Mark Lingane's dystopian world. A twisting, turning plot and pages packed with action sit inside Lingane's satisfying genre-mixing style. Dark, exciting, and with an excellent reluctant here, Degrade is a fab read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 369 Date: December 2019
Publisher: Insync Holdings
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0994616494

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Out on the scorched plains of the West Australian deserts lives a boy in a hunk of rusted metal. His life is simple: search for water aquifers and sell their location to the water-starved megaRig cities crawling over the countryside. But fate has different plans.

A chance encounter propels him on a dark journey of self-discovery, where he becomes the most precious piece in a ruthless game of chess between the warring mech rivals. Disturbing truths about his past come to light and he must decide what he stands for and who he believes.

The safety of the planet is at stake.

Degrade opens as it means to go on - with inyerface, banging action. Poor Arid, alone in the desert since his parents were killed, has a narrow escape as two mega-rigs fight it out and his is pretty much destroyed. He finds himself rescued by the mysterious-but-fascinating Ella and on board the Moonlight under the suspicious eyes of its leader, Queen Bea. Bea's eyes flash with recognition when he tells her his name - Arid Geiger - but before he can find out why that is, there's an assassination attempt and Arid is under suspicion and imprisoned. An escape facilitated by Ella - Queen Bea's daughter - sees Arid and Bea's other daughter, Frey, stranded in the desert....

... and it quickly becomes apparent that all is not what it seems. Arid is a pawn in a power game he does not understand, but which involves a weapon of mass destruction, and has no idea which side is the right one to be on.

Strip away everything else and at the heart of Degrade you have a classic YA story of reluctant hero with an origin story to be uncovered and a destiny to fulfil. And, together with his sidekick, this young hero must do battle with a corrupted adult world. It's not new but it's a strong narrative and it's done really well, so the story brings you in. 

But there's much more to enjoy about Degrade. The first is the world it envisages - post apocalyptic, dry, stark, violent. It's realised with harsh and evocative prose on a desolate landscape. And the attention to detail is wonderful, from the huge mechanised cities through the desert monsters to the cyborgs and the strange, stuttering variety of English they speak.

And there's the large cast of characters, all lively and vivid and three dimensional. I found myself drawn most to Arid, the boy with a good heart and a lingo all his own, who finds himself in the middle of an intricate - and violent - chess match but whose good sense and ability to self reflect sees him through. But the ill-fated assassin - shan't tell you who that is! - tugged at my heartstrings. Then there's the intricate plotting - no straightforward goodies and baddies in this book, and the fearless mixing of styles from dystopian to speculative to steampunk, and the unflinching battle scenes, and the wonderful chases and the odd moment of profundity punctuating them all.

In case you hadn't guessed, I really liked Degrade. Coming at it new to the world that Lingane has created, it was still an entire, whole, satisfying read. And I find myself wanting to go back to the origin and read his Tesla series.


If Arid and Frey's world is up your alley, you should read the first series by Lingane set in it - Tesla 1 by Mark Lingane. Adult readers might enjoy the blend of steampunk, dystopia, Japanese culture and Aussie writer in Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff.

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