Apocalypse Five (Black Spot Books) brings the thrilling and high-stakes action of The Hunger Games to a sleek and horrifying sci-fi dystopia, sprung from the mind of YA expert Stacey Rourke.

Well-known for her award-winning Gryphon series but an author who has successfully dabbled in many different genres, Rourke is well-versed in combining fantastical worlds and situations with young characters that are achingly relatable.

Enter the Apocalypse Five. In a world where scientists know the end is coming, but cannot predict whether it will be many lifetimes away or tomorrow, a group of teenage soldiers is tested through a variety of virtual reality simulations. The goal is to train a team strong enough to return to the world post-apocalypse and give humanity another chance.

While the simulations are manufactured, the danger is chillingly real. This group of cadets, the Apocalypse Five, has trained hard physically to meet the demands of a slew of obstacles spanning from random natural disasters to organized threats like terrorists.

This group is not the first to undergo the simulations, many past cadets have perished and been swiftly replaced. In fact, the story begins thick in the middle of a simulation, a jarring and clear picture of the cruelty of these missions and the lives they take.

The most recent group members have been trained academically to hone their knowledge in areas they have exhibited talent, such as engineering or medicine. Equal parts entertainment, economy and survival, the lives of the selected team members are monitored constantly, in and out of simulation.

The world may be in peril, but as long as it’s still alive, the rest of the population sits glued to the screen, enthralled by the bloodshed and drama of the obstacles. While seemingly inappropriate given the gravity of the mission, businesses line up for sponsorship, vying for the large audience.

Darkly comic, products are paid to be advertised during simulations, viewers can request or demand more dangerous situations based on the popularity of the team members and the whole group is dressed in fashion trends for the enjoyment of the audience rather than for the utilitarian needs of the mission.

Detroit, leader of her team and a seasoned veteran from past missions puts on a tough exterior to try and cope with her inhumane reality. She is too sick of the system to participate in product placements but claims she maintains a flirting banter with the weapons expert on her team, Houston, in order to keep the audience interested.

Her steadfast denials of real feelings for him are about as believable as her act of impenetrability. She may say she isn’t shaken by their missions, but she truly cares for her team and would be agonized to see more of them sacrificed. Detroit’s sharp mind and determined spirit, along with her emotional ties to her team make her a leader you can’t help believing in despite their dire circumstances.

When one of the missions proves to be too realistic, Detroit and her team investigate matters with their political and military leader Chancellor Washington. The truth will change their own missions forever. More fast-paced than a careening starship with characters you’ll want to rally behind again and again, Apocalypse Five is a quick read in a world you’ll want to return to soon.

Luckily for us, it seems like the escapades of the Apocalypse Five have just begun. Completely finishable in one weekend or even one sitting, be sure to check out the first installment in Rourke’s newest captivating series, Archive of the Fives.

Apocalypse Five is now available for purchase.

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Stacey Rourke is the award winning author of works that span genres, but possess the same flare for action and snarky humor. She lives in Florida with her husband, two beautiful daughters, and two giant dogs. Stacey loves to travel, has an unhealthy shoe addiction, and considers herself blessed to make a career out of talking to the imaginary people that live in her head.

Visit her website at: https://www.staceyrourke.com/