Countdown by Michelle Rowen Review: Reality TV show with psi & artificial intelligence

October 8, 2013 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | 4 stars, Books, Reviews

Countdown by Michelle Rowen Review: Reality TV show with psi & artificial intelligenceCountdown by Michelle Rowen
Published by Harlequin Enterprises, Australia on October 1, 2013
Source: Publisher
Genres: Dystopian, Thriller, Young Adult
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3 seconds left to live. Once the countdown starts, it cannot be stopped. 

2 pawns thrown into a brutal underground reality game. 

Kira Jordan survived her family's murder and months on plague-devastated city streets with hard-won savvy and a low-level psi ability. She figures she can handle anything. Until she wakes up in a barren room, chained next to the notorious Rogan Ellis. 

1 reason Kira will never, ever trust Rogan. Even though both their lives depend on it. 

Their every move is controlled and televised for a vicious exclusive audience. And as Kira's psi skill unexpectedly grows and Rogan's secrets prove evermore deadly, Kira's only chance of survival is to risk trusting him as much as her instincts. Even if that means running head-on into the one trap she can't escape. 


Countdown immediately caught my attention due to it’s similarities to Hunger Games, where subscribers tune in to watch a cruel reality TV show involving deaths on screen. However, it wasn’t just a direct copy – it took the main idea and changed it into something new and exciting.

Instead of being forced to kill each other in an arena, Countdown is a show where two criminals must compete in a series of trials in order to gain their freedom, which for Kira, is a one way ticket to a perfect life in the colonies. Kira and Rogan are held prisoner to the implants in their head, which will administer a deathly shock if they venture too far from each other or do not comply with the show’s direction. The only thing that gives them any hope of escaping is Kira’s psi abilities, where she can read people’s innermost feelings and even thoughts.

When we first meet Rogan, we are led to believe that he is a murderer and that Kira is stuck with him throughout the course of the show. As the two work together, they learn each others secrets and get to know each other intimately. Perhaps because of their forced circumstance, an obvious romance develops, which I enjoyed as it developed over the course of the novel. There are some predictable plot devices which will occur now and again throughout the novel, such as saying it was Rogan responsible for the deaths of Kira’s family,

“I feel a sense of loss if I’m not working against a countdown. Sue me.” – Kira. 

Kira is a great character who is determined to win the show and her psi ability and being a master pickpocket on the streets helps her out immensely. She’s smart, savvy and can handle her own two feet even without Rogan. I liked how she trusted her intuition (which also could have been her psi abilities) which was mostly spot on when it came to people. Rogan was your typical reformed bad boy who is now trying to prove himself. I took a while to warm up to him, knowing about his dark past, but all his actions were honest and he only proved to be an asset as he kept on saving Kira.

Outside of the Countdown show, there is barely any world building going on and a lot of questions will go unanswered about how the show came to be and why the subscribers would agree to these implants in their head. We’re simply told that a plague happens that took out most of the humans, and the perfect place where there is peace and no murder, killing or crime is The Colony. This makes it difficult to connect with and would be frustrating if you thought about it too much.

Perhaps the coolest part of Countdown for me was how it explored artificial intelligence. The geek in me loved reading about how the A.I. was used in the book, especially when they started talking about how deeply ingrained it was into Countdown. The other unique part of the book were the psi abilities, which unfortunately led to a few more questions that were sadly unanswered, like how its integrated into the world.

Overall, I enjoyed Countdown with the fast-paced action and unique mesh of a cruel reality TV show with psi and A.I. As long as you don’t mind the absent world building, there are some great characters developed over the course of the novel and struggling against their seemingly impossible circumstances. It’s great how it’s a standalone too, so everything is wrapped up nicely in the end.

Thank you Harlequin Australia for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review! 

Rating: 4 out of 5

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Jeann is an Aussie YA blogger and mum who loves to read and recommend books! You can usually find me fangirling about books on my various social media channels including Twitter @happyindulgence, Instagram and Youtube.

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24 responses to “Countdown by Michelle Rowen Review: Reality TV show with psi & artificial intelligence

    • I picked that up when I read your review – but I was glad I ended up enjoying it. Wow, if only it was released before Hunger Games, wonder what the reception would have been like then? It's a shame there wasn't much world building! Thanks Mel.

  1. I have this book for review, Jeann and now I'm excited to get to it. It sounds terrific and the I love a good entertaining book. This is the first time I'm hearing about the similarities to THG, but I'm glad you mentioned it because it would have frustrated me a bit if I hadn't known.

    It's such a shame about the world building though. Still, I'll be reading this one soon.

    Lovely review!
    Nick @ Nick's B recently posted…Review : The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren MyracleMy Profile

  2. I feel as though the world building would be a struggle for me, but it definitely has an intriguing and pretty unique premise. I'm so very wary of dystopians these days, unfortunately! Wonderful review, Jeann 🙂