Battle of the Ampere (Michael Vey #3), by Richard Paul Evans
First, let's discuss the thing that happened in "The Rise of the Elgen" that made me email Evans. You see, the uncontacted native tribe, the Amacarra? Were speaking Mandarin.
Evans doesn't use Hanyu Pinyin, or even Wade-Giles to transliterate what the Amacarra are saying so it took me a while. I began to catch on when "the old man" says "Ma shang." This is Mandarin for "immediately" (it literally means "on horseback"). And the Amacarra do act pretty quickly after he says this.
But that might have been a coincidence. So I read on, and there were further things that certainly seemed like they could have been Mandarin. So I went back and reread, converting the sounds that Michael heard into Hanyu Pinyin and then into characters in my head. And it all made sense with the things that happened next.
So I emailed Evans to ask why the Amacarra were speaking such a popular language and to point out that if I can figure it out with as little education in the language as I've had, certainly some of his readership is bound to be proficient and would have caught on as well. I said that I hoped we'd get an explanation.
Do we get an explanation? In a word: Nope.
I don't get it. If you are going to use an existing language to represent the language that your uncontacted tribe speaks, why choose the most commonly spoken language in the world? Why not cozy up to a native speaker of Finnish, which, like Mandarin, is not an Indo-European language and has only 6 million speakers, as opposed to 1.9 billion. Or Basque, which has around a million speakers. Or any of the literally hundreds of minority languages in Africa or Asia (852 languages are spoken in Papua New Guinea, 37 of which are dying -- can't a best-selling author get an appointment with someone studying one of those 37 languages and translate the dialogue into it? As something of a language geek, I would so totally be, like, "I'm not making it live again, because no one is being born speaking it, but I'm extending the life expectancy of a language by just ***this*** much.").
Using a non-Indo-European language like that you can have a language with a reliable grammar that looks realistic to the reader with a lower chance of the reader being able to puzzle out what is being said.
"The Battle of the Ampere" begins with Michael still among the Amacarra, who are still speaking Mandarin. Michael meets nother Glow, a redheaded girl whom the Amacarra understandably refer to as "red hair." When Michael first meets her, she refers to herself as "Tesla," which is the name that Hatch gave to her. It doesn't take Michael long to convince her to go back to her original name, Tessa.
Tessa's power is to enhance the power of the other Glows. She was at the Starxource plant to enhance the energy generation capabilities of the rats. For some reason that she doesn't go into, she used the "Weekend Express" tunnel to escape from the plant. Tessa is, by my count, the 15th Glow that we have met. So there are likely two more out there somewhere.
Michael's foot is injured and the Amacarra use some kind of special healing mud to heal his foot. Soon after his foot is healed, they return Michael and Tessa to Jaime. Michael finds out that the rest of the Electroclan has been captured by the Peruvian Army and are about to be transported to Lima to be tried as terrorists. It turns out that when they destroyed the Starxource plant, they cut off electricity to much of Peru, which has been deemed an act of terrorism. In Peru, terrorism is punishable by death.
The voice tells Michael that they are trying to get the kids released using diplomatic means. When those means fail, Michael insists that he must rescue the rest of the Electroclan.
Later then finds out that the resistance, the people who sent the Electroclan to Peru, have another task for the Electroclan.
Hatch has returned to the Ampere, which is the yacht that is the headquarters of Elgen, and staged a coup. He had the members of the board who are loyal to the old chairman, Schema, arrested and put in the brig. Hatch then grants himself the title "Supreme Commander General Admiral" ("Admiral" for short) and changes course to head for the island nation of Tuvalu, which he intends to conquer. He will set up a "reeducation facility" on the islands and then kill the citizens of Tuvalu who resist being "reeducated." Then once he has a country of his own, Hatch intends to create an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weapon that he can use to disable the existing power grid. Then he can come in with the Starxource plants and take over the world that way.
We find out that the resistance has a mole in Hatch's organization. It must be someone close to Hatch, since only a very few people know of Hatch's plans for Tuvalu.
The resistance wants the Electroclan to sink the Ampere before it can get to Tuvalu, and thus save the lives of the Tuvaluans. Additionally, by stopping Hatch before he can get to Tuvalu, the resistance hopes that development of the EMP weapon will halt and the lives that would be lost in the destruction of the power grid will be saved as well.
A lot of the book is actiony, with rescues and escapes, and, of course, the whole sinking the Ampere caper as well.
However, this book really shines, for me, at least, with regard to the characters. The adventures unfold in a way that gives each character a chance to shine. Tessa also adds new dimensions to the relationships among the Electroclan. Bonds are made and broken, the romances between Ostin and McKenna and Jack and Abigail blossom. And the Electroclan suffers a devastating loss.
The book ends with the Electroclan being told the next step in this ongoing war, which will lead us to the next book in the series. After two books, the Electroclan will finally leave Peru and head for Asia.