Blood, sweat, and death. Welcome to the Pax Games. Jo Linden was born into a world where wars are won with giant mechanical soldiers and the nuclear bomb was never invented. Yet the Cold War still rages, and international rivalries between democracy and communism are now fought at the Pax Games, an Olympic-style competition that pits young pilots of mechas against each other. The USSR has beaten the US in nearly every game since its inception, and in the 1963 Games, the US is desperate for a win. Because it's more than just the Games at stake. Premier Khrushchev will be attending, and after, he and President Kennedy are slated to sign a peace accord stabilizing the war in Vietnam-and their volatile relationship. Raised in her father's mecha repair shop, Jo knows more than anyone about piloting. She's also the most unlikely pick for Team USA since she's a virtually unknown fighter. So when she's invited at the last minute to compete, she jumps at it. This could be the only chance to save her family's home from debt collectors. All eyes are on Jo from the moment she arrives. But as fighters start dying in the arena, it's suddenly clear that it's more than the usual Pax Games, and Jo finds herself drawn into a deadly political plot. And if she can't figure out the truth, it might mean the annihilation of everything. In a global arms race between superpowers, playing out in violent games that only humanity could create, comes a chilling story of clashing titans, ruthless competition, freedom, and the girl caught in the middle of it all.
The Great DestroyersFeatured
Her life is about to change when the new female senator (who got her position as a temporary hold after her husband's death - the gender inequalities persist as per this time period) recruits her to be on the US mecha fighting team in the Pax Games. As Jo enters the games as an unexpected replacement in Team USA, she realizes there is more going on behind the scenes than she realized, and she is soon caught up in it.
What I loved: This was an intriguing alternate historical fiction, and I appreciated the ideas that parallel the history we know. Instead of other weapons, these mechas, known as goliaths in the US, were created during WWI and honed for warfare, but then also used for these battles (like wrestling or boxing). The historical context is brought to life in a new way in this book, including the context of the Cold War and the racism and sexism of the era. Other themes, such as socioeconomic disparity and privilege, make this a thought-provoking read.
What left me wanting more: As small points, the book felt a bit lengthy in places with some uneven pacing, and I almost wanted more context for the mechas to really understand how the fighting works.
Final verdict: An intriguing alternate historical fiction, THE GREAT DESTROYERS is a story about family, perseverance, and politics.