Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Ultraball: Lunar Blitz

Chen, Jeff. Ultraball: Lunar Blitz
January 15th 2019 by Katherine Tegen Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

In a futuristic dystopia where governmental differences are resolved with Ultraball games, orphan children are recruited to play the game on their colony on the moon. Strike Sazaki is glad of his opportunities, even if things don't always go smoothly for him. Playing Ultraball is better than being in the Tao Children's Home with other children, many of whom are recruited for the sport, since the only Ultrabot uniforms are child-size. Since NASA delivered those, Earth went "nuclear", and there is no support from the home planet. Strike really wants his settlement's team, the Taiko Miners, to win the Ultrabowl so that they can get the vital equipment they need, but they just don't have the right players. Enter Boom, who is a great player, but who is from the Dark Siders community of exiles. The different moon colonies are all very distinctive, with separate jump suit colors, but the Dark Siders wear all white, since they are rumored to be deathly pale. Hopefully, Boom will help, since she is a fantastic player, because if Taiko loses, the colony will be taken over by Raiden Zuna and using for blast fracking and explosive mining. Strike has to deal with a potential traitor on the Miners team, and make sure that everyone works together, since so much rests on the big game.
Strengths: This was an interesting mix of space adventure and football, and there aren't many of those around. Strike and his friends are scrappy and have their differences, but eventually work together for a common goal. I loved that their saving grace was Boom, who was from a community they didn't trust. The Ultrabot suits were very fun, and there are some interesting details about living on a moon community that isn't really thriving (sketchy food, regulated bathroom times, etc.). The cover and title are great; no guessing what this one is about!
Weaknesses: It would have been helpful to have more background information on what went wrong initially, and then why the moon colonies are imperiled. The information was there, but in bits and pieces. This is one instance where I would have liked an introductory info dump.
What I really think: I will definitely purchase this, although it may be hard to find the right readers for it. Jake Maddox fans forced to read sci fi? Football players who just pretend to read The Maze Runner? There's not a lot of overlap in my library between readers who want football books and readers who want speculative fiction, although this does a great job of including both.

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