Review: Space Hostages

Space Hostages by Sophia McDougall (HarperCollins, February 2016)

Alice and her friends are back in another high-flying space adventure!  It was supposed to be a peaceful voyage to Alpha Centauri to be present for the inauguration of the Morrors’  planetary home.  A moon that’s been terra-formed with the help of human scientists.   Except, well, Alice didn’t exactly get her parents’ permission to go.  And her best friend Josephine isn’t acting like they’re friends.  And of course the Goldfish plans to keep on testing them the whole trip.  But that was before the ship was highjacked  by another set of aliens.  Hostages of the alien race known as the Krakkiluks, Alice and her friends are in a fight for their lives and their liberty!  It’s going to take all their ingenuity and determination–plus Goldfish optimism–to get them out of this one.

For those who’ve read Mars Evacuees, this will be a welcome jaunt back into the lives of our heroes.  A year later, Alice Dare has put out a book of the entire first adventure, gaining her and her friends some notoriety for the part they played.  But life has moved on with Alice missing her friends and actually missing those crazy adventures on Mars that they took part in.  She’s looking forward to the chance to catch up with all her friends on their trip to see the new Morror home planet, but nothing goes quite as she hoped.  Despite humanity coming to peaceful terms with the Morrors there are a lot of other alien civilizations out there–and many of them are not near as interested in peaceful interaction, nor honorable conduct.  Our intrepid friends find themselves smack in the middle of a hostage situation–with the new Morror world, and Earth itself at risk in the fallout.  But with our protagonists fighting back, they’ll find a way outwit the alien aggressors.  With whole host of new characters to enjoy and a wild new adventure, this will be an enjoyable return space romp, though I suspect it is only the second book in an ongoing series.  What the author has done in this book has opened up the possibility of many more alien interactions in the future.  Mankind has stepped out onto the galactic stage in a big way!

This is a second book in a series and as such it depends on reading the first title to understand how the characters came together in the first place and what is significant about what they’re doing in this story.  While it’s possible for new readers to pick it up and enjoy the story, a lot of character and personality was established in the first book–along with the history of the Morror invasion and the human-Morror war.  It’s also true that reading the second book will contain significant spoilers for the first title, so I’d be a strong advocate of reading them in order.  Sophia McDougall continues to deliver fast-paced space adventure with vivid characters, interesting aliens and plenty of humor.  There’s a lot to love here.  Especially since there are so few science fiction reads out there that combine fun and adventure quite so thoroughly.

 I do have some quibbles with the book .  The second book continues the first-person narrative from the POV of Alice Dare, and maintains the conceit that this an actual written account created after the events have taken place.  In the first book the first person POV worked refreshingly well, especially since all of our main characters were confined to the same setting and events. In the second book, Alice’s first book is the first book we read in the series and as such has garnered much interest, but also some criticism from friends and others in how she handled their characters in the story.  Unfortunately, the second book runs into a problem with the first person POV.  The group of main characters split up and the narrative splits as well.     Alice, Josephine, Carl and the Goldfish are separated from Noel and Thsaaa.  Naturally, there had to be a way to represent the parts of the story that took place without Alice, since this parallel narrative is critical to the overall story arc.  To do this, the author has a few chapters where Thsaaa is recording the exploits of itself and young Noel as they hide and plan a rescue.  While this works to some degree, I found it broke me out of the flow of the story.  There’s an ongoing dialogue between Thsaaa and Noel about them making the recording and then Noel launches into the story itself.  His narrative voice felt inauthentic in recording what was going on as it happened.  Alice’s account is understood to be created later, but the immediacy of Noel’s makes it harder to suspend my disbelief.   I’m not certain if there was a better solution for this, but it’s difficult to do well in first person narratives.   The other issue for me is the sheer number of new characters and events all going on at once.  Unlike the last book, our characters of significance expand as the book goes on.   It felt like this story was trying to cram a heck of a lot in within the pages and sometimes the pacing felt rushed.  Now I’ve got to point out that the smooth pacing and seemingly effortless flow of story in the first book placed a pretty high water-mark for the sequel.  The first book is the better of the two, but this is still a remarkably good and consistently written sequel.

All that said, I do have to admit to absolutely loving Josephine’s brilliant sister Lena.  A scientist with a ruthless streak who sees the situation and decides what she will do.  She’s not a helpless damsel or a confused participant.  She’s a strong and almost scarily astute secondary character who does her part to thoroughly trounce the enemies.  I hope we get to see more of her in the future!

I certainly recommend this title to Middle Grade Science Fiction readers looking for a good read, and I can’t wait to see what the author has in store next!

Note: An advanced reader copy was provided by the publisher.

Publisher: HarperCollins

Publication Date: February 2016

ISBN13:     9780062294029

Recommended for grades 4 and up.

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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 February 22, 2016, in General Posts, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Glad to see you enjoyed this, will keep an eye out for it.

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