Reviews: Space Case by Stuart Gibbs

Space Case by Stuart Gibbs (Simon & Schuster, September 2015)

What’s interesting about the idea of genre is that it isn’t a perfect set of delineations that allow books to fall neatly into one area or another.  Many books skirt more than one genre at a time.  The mixtures and crossovers lead to stories that are space westerns, dark fantasy, steampunk, etc.  In the case of Stuart Gibbs’ newest offering, we have a plot arc that is a mystery set in a science fictional setting.

Twelve-year-old Dashiell Gibson is one of the first kids to live on the moon.  He’s a bit of celebrity back home because of it–every wants to know what it’s like to live on Moon Base Alpha.  But living on the first moon colony isn’t all that wonderful.  There isn’t a lot to do, the meals are less than inspiring and the toilet facilities are, well, a real pain in the you know what.  So, most of Dash’s time is spent being bored . . . until one of the lunar scientists turns up dead–and Dash is certain he was murdered.  He knows that Dr. Holtz wouldn’t have gone out onto the lunar surface with his headgear not properly attached, and he suspects the doctor was about to make an important announcement to the moon colony.  It’s apparently an announcement that someone else would kill to prevent.

Now Dash and his allies are hunting for clues and trying to avoid the adults who just want to put the whole thing under wraps.  But what Dash might discover in his investigation might just put his own life at risk . . .

Stuart Gibbs has created a nicely approachable science fiction landscape that manages to combine a decent amount of science and technology without descending into technobabble or long winded explanations.  Instead, our near future moon colony is seen from the restless and jaded eyes of one of it’s tween residents–one who really hates having to use the special toilets that constantly jam.  This first person story makes the idea of a moon colony seem both believable, and a tad pedestrian, but in a good way.  This is no far flung future dream, but a grounded look at what it might really be like to live in isolated and cramped quarters on the moon.  There are mean kids and friends, suspicious adults and clueless guardians.  Dash has to navigate all these relationships to find his proof that the doc was murdered.

This whodunnit in space is fairly well played, though I think without the exotic setting the mystery would not be quite as adventurous or interesting.  Readers who enjoy mysteries as well as those interested in science fiction will likely enjoy this–especially if they enjoy stories with a humorous first person perspective.

My main issue with the book is one that is difficult to explain because it’s also an extreme spoiler, so you’ll forgive me if I’m purposefully vague.  I’m not a fan of the particular type of plot twist/reveal used in this story–particularly not when so much hinges on it.  I found that while I was really on board with most of the story from start to finish, this particular end plot point and close to the story really threw me off.  In both tone and expectation, it really changed the overall feel of the book and made the conclusion feel like a different story altogether. While I believe the plot twist may not hit everyone that way, those who are faithfully following the mystery and expect a very logical wrap up could be thrown by this reveal.  It sends the book a little off the rails from what I expected it to be.

Still, if anyone can name another middle grade science fiction adventure book with a bi-racial protagonist, I’d be surprised. (Pleased, but surprised).  What Gibbs has created here will entertain readers who want fast-paced science fiction that keeps a positive viewpoint towards the future.  Mystery readers who don’t mind an unusual setting or are already fans of the author’s work will likely snap it up and devour it as well.  Given it’s accessible protagonist and fairly grounded, near future story, it should also  attract a fair number of non-genre readers as well, which is always a good way of introducing new audiences to the realm of speculative fiction.

Stuart Gibbs is the author of several middle grade mystery titles, including Belly Up and Poachedbut this appears to be his first foray into science fiction.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publication Date: September 2014   

ISBN13:    9781442494886

Recommended for grades 4 and up.

Comments welcome! 

 

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About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on November 29, 2014, in General Posts, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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