Three for Thursday: Space Adventures
So for this Thursday I bring you bite sized reviews of three middle grade space adventure stories!
Starbounders by Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson (HarperCollins)
Zachary Night is finally getting the chance to start his Starbounder training at Indigo 8. Like his parents and grandparents before him, he dreams of being one of one day being a full-fledged Starbounder and joining in the fight to protect the galaxy. But Zack has hardly started his training when things go wrong and land the class on a full-fledged adventure!
There’s definitely space and laser fun here to be had. But it’s primarily a school story format, with all the usual friends and allies, competitions and bullies. I have to admit I found this less compelling than the authors’ Familiars series. While this may work for a young audience new to the tropes of school stories and space battles, older readers will feel less satisfied with the format. Too much of the technology seems inconsistent (they have AI computers, but still have to do their own laundry) and much of it is used with out much actual science brought into the equation. Still plenty of excitement and kid level humor to make this appeal to young middle grade readers. It’s the first in a series, so there will be future adventures.
Fans of Hyperspace High by Zac Harrison may want to pick this one up.
The Planet Thieves by Dan Krokos (Starscape, 2013)
Thirteen-year-old Mason Stark is on his way with other cadets for a routine training assignment when things go terribly wrong. Their ship is attacked by Earth’s bitter enemies, The Tremist, and most of the crew is captured or killed. It’ll be up to Mason and a handful of cadets to rescue the survivors and stop a powerful weapon from falling into the wrong hands.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen much military science fiction for middle grade readers. This one packs in a lot of the standard boy-hero style storytelling, with friends and competitors as allies on his team. The story told is a decent one, though fairly unsurprising to an old-school science fiction reader like me. For middle grade readers who have gotten plenty of urban fantasy with young warriors, they may enjoy a new setting and genre with similar characters. Given that we simply haven’t seen anything quite like this in a while, it’s worth sharing with young patrons who might enjoy some military style stories.
This is a good jumping off point to get younger readers interested in the genre so that they’ll be eager to try longer Young Adult science fiction reads like Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.
The Lost Planet by Rachel Searles (Fewel & Friends, Expected Publication January 2014)
Chase Garrety wakes up with no memory of who he is other than his name and the conviction that something is terribly wrong. He’s on a strange planet and has a blaster burn on the back of his neck and the words “Guide the Star” in his mind. Now with the help of the boy who found him, he’s got to go on the run to find out who he is and what’s going on before it’s too late.
Pure space opera. This tale operates in a far future story, out in the galaxy. The action rarely lets up as the twists and turns of who is telling the truth and which characters are in alliance with which other characters keeps changing. Planets are destroyed, terrorism and threats are rampant. For the reader who enjoys the breathless pace this will definitely be a page turner, but younger readers may find the darker elements a bit much to handle. As I said, this is space opera, much more attention is paid to setting up neat tech and special abilities than really getting into the practical and scientific nature of it. It doesn’t detract from the story, but does make it more space fantasy (comparisons to Star Wars are fairly on target). My biggest issue is the idea of Chase being “special” and having abilities beyond the norm that feels a little cliche. Probably just because I’ve seen that story line done many, many times. I’d also have liked to see a few more strong female characters in the story.
This is the first in a series, and we’re left with plenty of questions at the end of the story that will not be answered until the next book.
So there you have it! If you’ve got a reader on your list looking for space adventures, these are some options to whet their appetite.
Posted on January 24, 2014, in General Posts, Three for Thursdays and tagged Books, Children's Books, Children's Literature, literature, MG Books, Middle-Grade Fiction, Reading, reviews, Science Fiction, series, SF, Space Adventure. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.