Michelle Maddox is the pseudonym for Michelle Rowen. Under Rowen she who writes quirky paranormal books. Countdown is the first book for her Maddox identity.
This is another Shomi book, which makes it 4 for me! I quite like futuristic romances, which is pretty much what this imprint does. As usual the cover has a manga-like look, but I have to say the expressions on the faces of these people are very wooden! Actually, the people at genrereviews had more to say than I did about the cover.
Moving on. Countdown starts with our protagonist Kira Jordan waking up in a dark room, handcuffed to a wall. Then she realizes someone is in the room with her, and he's not happy about it either. He's Rogan Ellis, and he admits he was convicted of murder, and he signed up to play a game called "Countdown" – if he wins, he can go free instead of sitting out his 500 year sentence, but losers die in this game too. Kira has no idea what's going on, she never signed up for any game, but very soon she realizes she has no choice but to work with Rogan. If they are more than 90 feet from each other, implants in their heads explode, and if they don't work together to get to the end of 6 levels, they die. Meanwhile they are doggedly pursued from one level to another by floating cameras and a gameshow announcer's voice who cheerily describes what's going on to the rich subscribers of the game.
This is a standalone book with a first person point of view. Kira is constantly trying to figure out both how to survive and whether she can trust Rogan. Is he really a murderer? The people running the game want her to think so, and will lie to them to add to the overall watchability of the show, but Kira has an ability and reads Rogan as a good person. She's not sure what to believe and goes back and forth. Meahwhile she feels attracted to him in the middle of all that they're going through.
Overall: This was an action filled book that reminded me of a sci-fi movie from the 80s. Sort of Mad Max and Tank Girl with a mix of Running Man thrown in. Michelle Maddox admits that Running Man was an inspiration. I thought that overall it was a fast, escapist read. Perfect for when you aren't really in the mood for something heavy and just want to read something fun. It has a few bits I found a little cheesy, but I still enjoyed it for what it was. It succeeds in entertaining the reader, and I thought that there was just enough to make the plot interesting - the game, their budding romance, their pasts, what each is hiding from the other (what he know's about the game, her mild ability to "read" people) - things keep moving along and keep the pace of the story going.