Signal Boost is the second novel in Alyssa Cole's post-apocalyptic series Off the Grid for Carina Press. A mysterious event has damaged the world's or at least North America's electrical grid and crippled communication systems. In Radio Silence, John leads his best friend Arden out of Rochester, NY to his family's well stocked remote cabin. There John's big brother Gabe and Arden unexpectedly fall in love. Signal Boost is John's story and a continuation of the post-apocalyptic plot.
Pre-Flare, John or Jang-wan as he known to his family was a happy gay man, studying computer science and sharing an apartment with Arden. Post-Flare, his life has become stifling and monotonous, he lives for his pre-dawn conversations with Arden before the rest of the family wakes. The predictable routine of his Post-Flare life is upset when he tackles an intruder trying to pilfer tomatoes from their vegetable garden.
Mykhail was an astro-physics graduate student Pre-Flare, home on extended leave to take care of ailing relative. His Post-Flare life has been incredibly traumatic. He hasn't had any of the comforts the Seong family has enjoyed. He has experienced the horrible things since the Flare and has very little to live for. The one thing that keeps him going is the hope that if he find his way back to his former college campus he can help get the grid up and running again. Mykhail is convinced his former professor and graduate adviser was one of the few people prepared to respond to this event.
Jang-wan & Mykhail immediately hit it off. Mykhail is funny, interesting and they connect over long conversations about the cosmos while stargazing. Jang-wan jumps at the opportunity to be of use. His orienteering skills can get Mykhail to Burrell where his computer skills might be again be of use.
On the road Jang-wan & Mykhail get to know each other a lot better and face perilous situations. Jang-wan learns all about Mykahail's complicated family, and the life choices. The heightened emotional situations they experience on the road eventually breakdown Mykhail's resistance to his attraction and admiration for Jang-wan. The story takes a big shift at this point, moving from trek-road-trip romance to romantic suspense. Many things don't seem right at Burrell College and Mykhail's will to pursue their relationship is very quickly tested.
I was really looking forward to this book. I enjoyed Radio Silence a great deal and the teaser chapter for Signal Boost was fantastic. But uneven pacing & world building issues tripped me up. I liked the characters, but I liked the idea of them together more than I liked the execution of it. Jang-Wan and Mykhail's lengthy conversations about the stars and astrophysics felt like they had been cribbed straight from Neil Degrasse Tyson's Cosmos series. Jang-Wan & Mykhail's complex emotional and relationship issues were abandoned in the last quarter of the novel, replaced by a larger set of issues. The action scenes and intrigues were exciting but I felt Mykhail & Jan-Wan's romantic arc suffered.
There was a lot of great potential in this story but it did not quite live up to my expectations.
I received a review copy of Signal Boost from Carina Press via NetGalley