Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Blastaway and Rocket Man

Landers, Melissa. Blastaway.
July 9th 2019 by Disney-Hyperion
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Kyler Centaurus have four obnoxious brothers who play soccer or other sports, while Kyler is more interested in science. He would really like to visit the Fasti Sun Festival, but his parents are against it, since Quasar Niatrix is behind it. Niatrix is a businessman who runs a successful corporation and is fabulously wealthy, but Kyler's dad is always protesting against him. Tired of dealing with his brothers and not getting his own way, Kyler decides to take the family ship and go to the festival by himself. He decides this is a bad idea, but falls asleep at the wheel and accidentally steals the vehicle. He gets to Fasti, where he meets Figerella Jammeslot. Fig is a mutant, which means she is the descendant of people who left Earth to live, mutated to better survive in space, and are now not welcome on the planet without a lot of paperwork. Fig's family contracted to destroy things, but her parents were killed and their ship destroyed. She accepts an assignment from two space pirates, Corpse and Cadaver, to blow up a man made star at the festival. Since she needs a new blaster as well as some money, Fig takes the assignment. She also plans to steal Kyler's ship, so she befriends him. He had already had a run in with the pirates, managing to kick them out of his ship. Soon, the two take off back to earth. Before long, there are all kinds of complications, including meeting up with Captain Holyoake, another mutant who knew Fig's family and tries to convince her to stay away from earth. Kyler's parents keep trying to reach him, and after the news that a star was stolen from the festival and is heading to earth, he finally returns their call. It will take all of Fig's skills and Kyler's determination to save the earth, arrive their safely, and not fall prey to giant dust mites or space explosions!
Strengths: I liked Kyler and Fig, for different reasons. Kyler doesn't fit in with his family, and decides not to take the abuse his brothers give out. He knows that taking the family ship is wrong, and really thinks it through. He is understandably naive, but survives well. Fig is reacting to how her people are treated, and does some things that aren't too nice, but has a core of grief that motivates her to do them. Neither character is perfect, but they are likable despite their actions, due to their backgrounds. That's a hard thing to pull off. There's plenty of space action as well, an understandable plot, and some cool science. Also, Quasar is a good evil villain!
Weaknesses: There are a few slow spots; some of the details about the interplanetary politics and Fig's guardianship could have been pared down.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing. I always need more space adventure books like Levy's Seventh Grade vs. the Galaxy,  Fry's Jupiter Pirates, McDougall's Mars Evacuees, and Kraatz's Space Runners.

Ashby, Ruth. Rocket Man: The Mercury Adventure of John Glenn
Published February 1st 2019 by Peachtree Publishing Company
(first published October 30th 2004)
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Not only was John Glenn the first person to orbit the Earth, a military veteran, and politician, but he was from all accounts a kind and exemplary human being. While this book focuses more on his Mercury Seven mission, it also includes information about his childhood, military career, and training with NASA.

While there have been a number of other books about Glenn and his mission
including We Seven: By the Astronauts Themselves by Carpenter, et al.,  Wolfe's The Right Stuff,  Burgan's John Glenn: Young Astronaut (Childhood of Famous Americans) and the excellent National Geographic Liftoff: A Photobiography of John Glenn (Photobiographies) by Don Mitchell, this short book is a combination of many of these. Told in a Childhood of Famous Americans with many dramatized conversations, but with more details about the actual mission, the book is highly engaging and readable.

The mix of personal and public events makes this even more intriguing. While I generally like more chronologically arranged biographies, there is a good annotated timeline at the back of the book to help navigate the narrative if necessary. It was fun to see glimpses of Glenn earning money to get a bike for a paper route in order to help his family, and the experiences of his wife and children when he was involved with NASA are something I have not really seen in other biographies. It would have been nice to have more pictures accompanying the text, but there are a number at the back of the book.

Since Glenn passed away in 2016, it is good to have updated biographies of him. With the fiftieth anniversary of the moon walk in 2019, there seems to be a renewed interest in all things NASA. This re-issue is great to hand to readers who have also devoured Olson's Lost in Outer Space: The Incredible Journey of Apollo 13, Aldrin's To the Moon and Back: My Apollo 11 Adventure,  Slade's Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon,  and Mark Kelly's Astrotwins fiction series.

I could have used more information about Glenn's life after the mission. While his death is listed in this, there does not seem to be much revision from the earlier version.

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