Having been involved in the destruction of the Duplicates, those copies of the human race out to destroy the human population, Socket Greeny is back. In The Training of Socket Greeny, Tony Bertauski has further developed his story of Socket Greeny and brought us another installment of a great science fiction tale. Socket is the protagonist and now very involved in the training program for the Paladin Nation.
The training is harrowing, involving many techniques we associate more with martial arts and mind control than actual physical power. Socket struggles to understand why his trainer, Pon, continues to use Duplicates as targets. Eradicated during the first war, why are they still considered the enemy? Trying to clear his mind of such questions, he must concentrate to win this latest round, which involves a replicate of his mother.
This exercise is to get him to a level where he can destroy the Duplicate before it murders his replicated mother. Even as Socket continues his attacks, the program learns his process making it more difficult to beat. Trying to use the different techniques learned through his trainer, he hopes this time to win. His day is not complete until he beats the program. He must be ready for the Realization testing, which will determine whether he becomes a Paladin.
After succeeding at saving his replicated mother, Socket takes the time coming to him to return to his home and look up his friends Chute and Streeter. As he relaxes, he realizes that he feels different. Is the stress of training causing his entire system to break down?
When he struggles to locate his friends, he finds that Streeter is going through an addiction, one he must control himself, and that Chute has made a life of her own, one that does not involve her friendship with either Streeter or himself. Yet the connection is still there. As usual, unable to leave things alone, Socket ends up using his new skills when he and his friends are threatened.
Punishment for using his skills is swift, restricting further leave until after testing. Socket Greeny is returned to base to continue his training. When Pon steps in as a sparring partner, anger sparks within Socket, which unleashes a power that creates major damage to Pon. But Socket cannot remember what he has done or how. After he heals, Pon continues as trainer but only with instruction, and Socket no longer sees him. What did happen and how did Socket cause it?
Pon is hiding a secret; one the Paladin Nation must see themselves. When the discovery occurs, a new war breaks out. Can Socket help the Paladins save the human population a second time?
Socket has grown and developed new and frightening abilities while working and training with Pon. Chute and Streeter too have grown, creating a chasm in their relationships that will be difficult to redress. As Socket tries to bridge the gap, he continues to break rules initiated by the Paladin Nation, which puts him at odds with everyone involved. He is beginning to lose himself, beginning to become invisible to those he is close to, which is a result of becoming a Paladin.
Pon has become a force in Socket’s life. He is trustworthy and loyal, and yet Socket is not sure of him. He does not understand the forces behind Pon, which drive him. Pon is a strong and charismatic trainer; he brings to mind the training received by David Carradine in Kung Fu. Pon is elusive, brave and above all, full of wisdom.
The characters continue to grow and develop, and while you miss who they were, you enjoy watching the changes. They are still the same group of kids, but have developed more into separate individuals, and with Socket being the pivotal character, he keeps them safe and together.
The Paladin Nation seems a lot like boot camp with the officers and rules. It has its positives as well as negatives, and sets high expectations for its recruits.
Tony Bertauski has done an amazing job building a world full of characters that you can relate to. He has put together a race of Duplicates that can be anyone at any time. I would recommend this book for the young adult reader that enjoys action and science fiction. It is full of both, a read that is hard to put down.