September 1st 2015 by Random House Books for Young Readers
E ARC from Netgalley.com
The Earth is so desperate for fuel that there is an eight hour long mandatory black out every night, but there has been a discovery. There is a way to get fuel from outer space, but because of the dangers involved in the space travel, only four children 12 and under can be sent. There is a competition, headed up by Commander Phillips, and eight children compete. Dash Conroy is the brilliant protagonist and the son of a struggling single mother in Orlando. Carly is of Asian descent, Gabriel and Anna are children of color, Ravi is Indian, Sienna is Italian, Niko is Hispanic and the blonde Piper is in a wheelchair. The groups are put through their paces in a variety of environments. Anna is very driven, and wins most of the competitions, but doesn't cooperate well. In the end, four children, headed by Dash, are chosen to go, and four are sent back home, but are kidnapped en route. When the children are trained, they are sent on the spaceship Cloud Leopard to J16 to get an element necessary for the power source, and find out that they weren't recruited for just one trip-- they must go to six different planets to get a variety of things. There are some more surprises along the way, including the fact that the children who weren't chosen for the mission have been recruited by someone else who is willing to send them into space behind the other team to gather the elements as well.
This series is a multiplatform experience complete with interactive web site and six books by different authors released within a year.
Strengths: Science fiction adventure has seen a resurgence lately, and this was rather enjoyable in an original Star Trek kind of way, especially when they landed on the planet. I could practically see
Weaknesses: No Checkov? Are Russians no longer the "in" thing? And no token aliens? Oh, well. All of the obligatory sci fi AND middle grade lit tropes are carefully covered, so a LOT of thought went into this one. For me, this made it like listening to The Monkees instead of the Beatles, but I don't think I have any students who are well versed enough in the history of science fiction writing to feel the same way.
What I really think: Now I just want to go watch The City at the Edge of Forever. Which is apparently available at Hulu.com. Is anyone out there surprised that I had an Enterprise "con" made out of a Lite Brite? Before "con" meant "convention"? Less than ten years after the original series went off the air?
Now I feel old. Off to watch some tribbles. With William Schallert, whom I adore.