Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: phoenix-island
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
review 2014-03-16 09:45
Review: Phoenix Island - John Dixon
Phoenix Island - John Dixon

This was a great read, one I finished almost all at one go. It was thoroughly entertaining, an action-packed book with believable characters and conspiracies abound. I can really see why this would be a great adaptation for TV and I eagerly await the sequel!


Some of the plot twists were completely unexpected, and the novel kept me on my toes throughout. It has certain elements quite similar to The Lord of The Flies and it is perhaps one of the best books that I’d recommend to Hunger Games’ fans that won’t read like a replica.


There is of course, no such thing as a perfect book, and I did have an issue with it (emphasis on the singular). However, this is just me being nitpicky and it’s not that prominent as you read.


With well written fight scenes set in an exotic locale and a delicious number of twists and turns along the way, this is an excellent action/adventure book!


*I received a copy of the book via Netgalley. This doesn't affect my opinion of the book.

**Check out my blog for the full review and some awesome extra bits! [LINK]

Source: codenamebookworm.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/phoenix-island-john-dixon
Like Reblog Comment
review 2014-02-20 00:00
Phoenix Island
Phoenix Island - John Dixon Carl is in a lot of trouble. In fact, he’s been in trouble for quite some time, which explains why he has been shuffled from foster home to foster home. The courts have had enough of him and he is being sent to a somewhat secret boot camp island prison called Phoenix Island. He will have to endure there until he turns 18. Carl is also a champion boxer and since he keeps slamming his fists into bullies, and Phoenix Island is run by bullies, I expect Carl will have some trouble there.

Phoenix Island is a mix of tough boot camp, abusive authority figures, really nice kids in the wrong place, and illegal science experiments on humans. Carl, our all-around boyscout, tries to help the weak and gets a few more scars for his efforts. His sidekick, Ross, is always quipping off some reply to the wrong person, which earns him a few more scars. The romantic interest is Octavia, who tries very hard to blend into the background and not draw attention, but things don’t work out that way and she earns a few new scars too.

Eventually, Carl’s physical abilities draw the attention of the Old Man, the guy who runs Phoenix Island. Carl is given a gift, one that enhances his physical prowess. Even more important, the Old Man becomes the caring authority/parental figure in Carl’s life as Carl is given further training in hand-to-hand combat, small arms training, and a taste of the Old Man’s zero tolerance policy for terrorists…….But perhaps the Old Man takes it too far.

I think if I had a lot of angst towards authority figures, I would have enjoyed this book quite a bit more. At first I questioned Carl’s all around good-guy-in-a-bad-situation character, I got use to it and thought he would be an exception. How many kids go through foster homes like crack-laced popcorn and stay boyscouts? But I settled into it. But then we get o the island. Seems like all of the ‘good kids’ are innocent cherubs inadvertently stuck in hell. There’s some bad kids, but they are totally bad, spoiled, rotten – not redeemable. There are definitely black and white (good and evil) characters in this book and not much in between. I count this as the only big flaw for the book because it made things predictable.

That issue aside, I enjoyed this book for the suspense. It was like a mix of The Island and Lord of the Flies. The innocent eventually suspect they are being used for something more (what really goes on in the Chop Shop?) while the baddies start to hold sway (maybe there will be a really exciting hunt?). Still, I kept expecting the innocent to somehow out trick the baddies and win the day. The ending did surprise me. Nice little twist at the end sets it up just right for Book 2.

Narration: Kirby Heyborne did a good job as narrator. He was a believable Carl and he did great bullying voices (and there were lots of bullies). His feminine voices could use a little more work, but each was distinct.
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2014-01-28 02:47
Decent action/survival novel
Phoenix Island - John Dixon

John Dixon’s debut novel Phoenix Island is what inspired the television show Intelligence. While I can see that a little in this book, I am having trouble seeing how it inspired a series based on an adult who is a good guy when this was a teen book and the people want to use the chip for bad things. (though the kid is good)

Phoenix Island was packed full of action and suspense right from the very beginning and it never let up. There was something always going on whether you were following Carl or Octavia and you couldn’t help but root for them.


Carl is a fighter and his temper has landed him in trouble everywhere he goes, but he is always trying to help some weaker person. Since he is an orphan and won’t be missed he is sent to Phoenix Island. Carl soon realizes that this is not just a boot camp to straighten out wayward teens, but a place where they are turning kids into killers.

Carl is determined to not make trouble but on the very first day he makes enemies with his drill sergeant and that was the worse thing to do. Drill sergeant Parker is gunning for Carl but he does really good at keeping his temper in check as they go through grueling routines day in and day out, but he has made enemies and will have to watch his back. Parker gives him the one job that turns most of his group against him.

Carl makes a couple friends, Campbell, Ross and Octavia. He really likes Octavia and finds her easy to talk too so when he finds out what this place is really like he wants to find a way to get them off the island. Then Carl’s temper gets the best of him and he gets in a fight that lands him in the sweatbox. He has gained the attention of the man who runs Phoenix Island and is taken to the Chop Shop (med center) to heal and while there he gets a few new inserts in his body. His new body that is filled with chips, but not the master chip at least not yet.


While Carl is with Commander Stark, he trains and feels stronger than ever, but even though he likes being there compared to with the group he still knows what they are trying to turn him into. A killer kid.  Can he get off the island or save his friends?

Carl is a complex character. He is very mature for a sixteen year old but it probably comes from being in the system after his parents died. He is a  natural born fighter, but he has a heart. When others around him are turning to bloodlust and giving in to the routine he is always trying to look out for his friends and those weaker. He is a great  character.


Like I said before the TV show intelligence was based on the concept of the chips from this book, but that is about as far as I would say the similarities are at least to me. I think this book would make an awesome Teen movie and be something different for teens. It is a bit brutal so if that is not your think you might not enjoy this, but I thought it was pretty good.


The only downfall I seen was the ending because I am not sure if there is going to be a sequel or not and it sort of leaves it open for one. I sort of thought I might have had a standalone novel but now I am not sure and I like it when they let me know ahead of time if it’s a series. (update, after the author seen my review he told me there was a sequel to be coming out hopefully towards the end of 2014 called, Devil's Pocket.)


I would recommend this for anyone who likes a good action packed survival type novel.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2014-01-22 06:39
Pretty awesome
Phoenix Island - John Dixon

Actual rating: 3.5

They can shoot me through the bars of this sweatbox or hang me from the flagpole or throw me to the sharks, but they cannot make me cry or beg. I will not show them weakness. I will stay strong. If they kill me, they will remember my strength; I will force them to live with the memory of my strength forever.
And if I live, I will escape from Phoenix Island, and I will tell the world. I will bring these people down.

There is no room for pussies on Phoenix Island.

This book is reminiscent of Lord of the Flies meets Island of Dr. Moreau meets Battle Royale. It's got a bunch of juvenile delinquents, it's got a lot of fighting, a lot of underlying tension that comes with throwing a bunch of kids together. Tthere is a mad scientists doing ungodly things to the human body, battles for survival, duels to the death in a hostile, swampy Florida . This book is not for everyone, I would recommend it to younger men. It is light on the romance, but the existence of romance at all serves to discombobulate me because it truly had no role at all here.

There is a lot of physical violence and a lot of torture. It left me very uncomfortable and in pain for the main character---which surprised me a bit, because I usually love violence and blood and guts. It is the equivalent of seeing your favorite character get beaten to a bloody pulp; you cannot help feeling tormented on their behalf. The violence was spectacularly done, it is bloody, it is painful, and it agonized me as I was reading about it. More than once, I just wanted to jump into the middle of the book and shield the main character from the pain he was experiencing.

The baton crackled, and two needles of energy plunged into Carl’s forearm. Electricity coursed through him and locked his muscles rigid, filling him with sparking, yellow pain. Parker grinned through his anger. “Not bad for the first one.”
The first one...And then the horror of it dawned on him; Parker had no intention of stopping no matter what Carl did. He was going to keep shocking Carl until Carl couldn’t take it anymore.

I wouldn't feel so defensive about the main character if I didn't like him. I absolutely loved Carl. This book does such an amazing job of building up believable, imperfect, sympathetic characters. All of the teenagers in this book are juvenile delinquents, thieves, murderers. The psychological profiles of the kids in this book were spectacularly well done and absolutely believable.

The Summary: Carl is a good kid, who's gotten into one too many fights. Like many juvenile delinquents, it's not entirely his fault, Carl's troubled youth is a matter of circumstance. Some people were born with silver spoons in their mouths, Carl is not one of them. His mother, dead of cancer. His father, a dead policeman. He is an orphan. Nobody cares about him, so Carl cares for others---too much. A champion boxer, Carl has an innate sense of justice that has him beating up bullies, and this last battle is the last straw for him in the juvenile deliquency system. Carl has only one option: Phoenix Island, a juvenile boot camp until he reaches 18, after which his name will be cleared, and he will be free to live out his dream to be a police officer---or a North Carolina jail, to which there will be no escape.

He has no choice, Carl is sent to Phoenix Island with a load of other juvenile delinquents. It soon becomes obvious that they are all orphans.

You are all orphans. Why had they taken only orphans? He thought of the kick he had received, the rough handling of Davis. Here they were, on Phoenix Island, somewhere outside of the United States and its laws.
We’re as dead to the world as our parents, Carl thought. These people can do anything to us.

They are very much outside of US laws. The boot camp is run military-style, but there is an endless routine of beating and torture that would not have been tolerated in an ordinary boot camp. Carl tolerates it just fine. He is in good shape, he just wants to stay under the radar and ride out his time until he is 18 to earn his release, but it is not to be. Amidst the beating, the daily physical and emotional pain, Carl discovers something, a diary that a former inmate has left behind. A diary that hints that there is something more to Phoenix Island than just the boot camp it supposedly is. That Carl's sentence was possibly planned.

That made no sense.
Unless . . .
Odd misgivings warbled through him.
Something weird was going on. Really weird. Bad weird.
The date suggested that whoever wrote this was either psychic or had been planning his placements months in advance...

Nothing comes of his misgivings until the day a particularly sadistic guard decides he wants to play a game of electrocution with Carl's body. Carl is tortured to the point of breaking. Then he snaps. Then all hell breaks loose. Carl thought he was going to die, but that's just the beginning. He meets a strange man; it is yet to be seen whether he is a savior or a madman. Maybe both, depending on the context.

“If Dr. Vispera had been born in London or Detroit, he would no doubt have risen through the ranks of respected physicians and scientists and established himself in more conventional ways. Unfortunately for him—and even less fortunately for his symphony of victims—he was born in place that valued power over science. Sometimes, the only difference between a Nobel Prize winner and a war criminal is geography. Do you understand?”

Like a phoenix, Carl rises, bigger, stronger. Whether his future will be better is yet to be seen.

The Setting: A subtropical, swampy island. Danger lies everywhere. There are bird-eating spiders. There are sharks. There is no escape.

“That jungle will eat you alive. Bad things live out there. Bad, bad things. This fence right here? It’s not to keep you in. It’s to keep them out. You go AWOL here, it’s a death sentence.”

The jungle is even more hostile than the people residing on it.

The Characters: The author does a remarkable job of giving us psychological insights within the minds of the characters in the books. Juvenile delinquents they may be, but simple, they are not. It takes a hard life to create a juvenile offender. It takes a rough upbringing to create a sociopath and a bully, whether adult or child. Teenaged delinquents learn early on to be manipulators, to play the system, to play the people.

Girls like Rice, though, didn’t even think about the outside. They had turned inward, had become truly institutionalized. They didn’t get scared; they got interested. They didn’t look for a way out; they looked for ways to manipulate the system, ways to push buttons. There was no reforming them—and certainly not by shouting.

It offers a tremendous amount of insights into bullies, their enjoyment of inflicting torture.

Decker just kept staring, a terrible amusement playing across his face. It was a cold humor Carl had seen in other bullies. The toughest ones. The ones with real confidence. Counselors and teachers told you bullies were insecure and cowardly, and, sure, some were. But guys like Decker, guys who got that look in their eyes, were neither insecure nor cowardly, and they weren’t just acting out for attention. Guys like Decker were confident and tough and mean to the core, and they hurt people because they liked causing pain.

That is not to say that all of the kids in this book are bad. There are kids who simply were born under a bad sign, the result of a system that failed them. Kids who truly want to do well, but somehow keep ending up in trouble through sheer bad luck. Kids who just want to get better, to start their life over on a clean slate.

Carl is one of the most sympathetic main characters I have encountered in a novel. He is such a good kid, well-meaning at heart, with aspirations to be a future police officer. In a normal family, he might have had a brilliant future. As an orphan, he is shit out of luck. Carl is brave, he stands up for the underdog, he suppresses his pain, he braves things through. He has bad impulses, but he knows better. He feels the urge to do something stupidly brave in the defense of a friend, but he pushes it down, knowing it will get him into trouble, but hating himself for it. He is tortured, he is kind, he is human, and I loved him, for the most part. Carl has such self-awareness.

And all these years, that’s what Carl thought he’d been doing: keeping his promise to his father. Standing up for the weak.
But he’d been fooling himself.
Carl’s historical pattern of self-destruction did point toward a deep personal weakness—all those fights, all those placements, all the trouble he’d gotten himself into here..always a bully, always a victim, always Carl stepping into the middle.
But Carl’s weakness wasn’t his need to help the victims. His weakness was his need to destroy the bullies.
He’d been fighting not out of love but hatred.

Which brings me to where Carl lost my sympathy. And it is so predictable.

The Romance: Yep. Carl pretty much had my eye rolling into the back of my head when he falls into insta-love with the beautiful girl, the sad-looking girl, with gray eyes and a fucking white streak in her hair.She looked frightened and stunned and exhausted, yet still beautiful, with sad-looking eyes the color of wet gravel and long hair as dark as his mother’s had been, though a patch of pure white marked her bangs. White hair. And her, what? Sixteen?For fuck's sakes, give me a fucking break. It is a correctional facitity. A military-style boot camp where kids are duking it out to the death. And you still have the fucking time to make googly eyes at each other and hang out with each other when you are constantly being fucking monitored?

The hints of absolute unnecessary romance and how that insta-love preyed on Carl's mind and make stupid decisions decreased my enjoyment in this book.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2014-01-21 18:23
Beyond Scared Straight, Indeed
Phoenix Island - John Dixon
"Welcome to the post-human age."

It's the Marines meets Maze Runner meets Unwind meets Fight Club (the cover even reminds me of the FC cover) meets some weird version of The Island of Dr. Moreau/Jurassic Park (without the animals) mashup - in this book's version of "it really sucks to go to juvvie." 

The show Beyond Scared Straight would probably love to have some of Phoenix Island's tactics at their disposal.

I'm itching to shelve this book as horror lite, but I'll go with science fiction and a nod to dystopia (even though the "off-island" world isn't on the same abnormal scale that Phoenix Island is).

Who would miss them? They were just a bunch of throwaway orphans.

Since the book was something of a slow-starter, I'm not sure if I was on board enough to start caring about what happened to the characters by the time the action finally started kicking in. With some retooling, Phoenix Island would probably work better as an adult offering. I expect YA books of this category to hit harder and faster out of the gate, whereas I am more patient to wait out a slow build with adult literature.

However, all is not lost. This is exactly the type of book that my teenage son would have loved a few years ago. At the first hint of danger and/or violence to come, he would have stayed glued to the pages, waiting for it to happen. He would have cared less about character attachment, and more about seeing how the shit was going to hit the fan. While he and I both read and enjoyed books like Unwind and The Maze Runner, we definitely had different reasons for why we liked those books. In retrospect, Unwind is still a book I think about, while Maze Runner has dulled with time for me (because I've read much better from the genre since then), and I'd actually put it on par now with Phoenix Island, which might not be as good of a compliment as it would have been a couple of years ago. 

"They look like the damn Hitler Youth."

Even though I'm sort of half-and-half on this book (the second part was pretty good - I'm just sad that it took me so long to get invested), I'm going to go ahead and recommend Phoenix Island to anyone who wants to get away from the Matched, Delirium, Wither type of romantic sci-fi and delve into something grittier.

This book provided from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All quotes taken from the pre-published copy and may be altered or omitted from the final copy.

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?