Tuesday, June 09, 2020

Glitch and Ultraball

Martin, Laura. Glitch
June 9th 2020 by HarperCollins
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

N.B. I love time travel books, and the best ones (e.g. Owen's excellent Here, There Be Dragons) make my brain hurt. And remind me of the television show Voyagers! This one does both, very nicely.

Regan has been identified as someone who has the ability to "glitch", or travel through time, and is a student at the Academy run by her mother for such people. Glitchers train to be able to stop the Butterflies, who are evil agents employed by Mayhem to go back in history and change events. Regan messes up a lot during the simulations, but she has an uncanny knack for spotting Butterflies. Elliot doesn't get along with Regan-- her thinks she is snotty because her mother is in charge, and he resents that she doesn't work harder academically. It doesn't help their relationship when they both receive a "Cocoon" in Regan's handwriting-- a letter from Regan's future self that's aim is to change the future. This is just what Glitchers try to prevent Butterflies from doing! When the two have to work together, they think their simulation is a disaster, but they are asked to participate in a special Lewis and Clark academy that trains Glitchers with complementing powers and skills to work in tandem. The school for this is not located on the elusive island where the Academy is, but is in a super secret location inside a mountain. Regan and Elliot are the youngest team, and have some early success, mainly due to their Cocoon. When a disaster strikes the Academy, the two have to go on a real mission. Will they be able to save Glitchers from the evil attempts of Mayhem? And should they?
Strengths: The most important thing for a time travel book, for me, is to establish a reasonable vehicle for time travel without overexplaining it. This does that perfectly. Not only that, but the travelers are given a mission, and are fighting against evil. It is also notable that the faculty don't time travel any more; it's just children. The simulations are interesting and bring up various points of history, like the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911, which is my favorite horrible historical event. (We all have one, right?)
Weaknesses: I needed to know a bit more about Mayhem and the people they had working as Butterflies, especially since their training didn't seem to be great. Will we find out more in another book? I'm thinking that perhaps they aren't as evil as they seem.
What I really think: I would make an excellent Glitcher-- I would totally have called the inconsistency in 1970s hairstyles. I would, of course, need an Elliot who was better than I am at dates. Also, I am very excited about having this book in my library and getting it to fans of Gutman's The Flashback Four.

Chen, Jeff. Deathstrike: Ultraball #2
January 14th 2020 by Katherine Tegen Books
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

After narrowly avoiding disaster in Ultraball, the Miners (coached by Strike) are back for a new season. When the team loses to the low ranked Molemen, they know that they have to take a hard look at their roster in order to have a decent season. Strike is also dealing with a secret-- he is quickly outgrowing his Ultrabot suit, which will mean the end of his career. To complicate matters, Striker finds out from a group of Dark Siders that Book is still alive, and he starts to get coded messages from her. The most pressing threat is Raiden Zuna. He's not only backing the Neutrons, who are on track for their fifth championship win, but he's bought up most of the media so they only report stories he approves. He's still trying to take over the Moon, but he takes time to reach out to Strike. He knows Strike's secret, and claims he can help him to modify his suit so he can continue playing, just like one of his players. WIth Zuna threatening the safety of all of the communities on the Moon, the competition to reach the Ultrabowl ramps up, with players making more and more violent choices in order to win. When Strike finds out how Zuna REALLY helped his player with the Ultrabot suit, he realizes that there is nothing that can extend his playing time, and he has to look out for the safety of Boom, his players, and the Moon, not matter how much this runs him afoul of Zuna.

For sports players who also like science fiction, this is a perfect amalgamation. Ultraball is similar to football, if football involved flying, underground passages, explosions, and suits that give the players super power. There are lots of games described in exquisite detail, and I've noticed on most of the reviews of the first book that this is what the teachers and librarians don't like about the story. These descriptions are, of course, exactly what middle school sports fans absolutely want in a book!

Zuna is an interesting super villain-- he has so much money and power that he seems unstoppable, but has certain weaknesses. I loved that Strike had no intention of trusting him, but was sucked in by his desire to continue with his sport. The fact that the players will take horrific chances to stay in the Ultrabot suits has direct parallels to football players continuing to suit up despite the threat of concussions and traumatic brain injury.

The best part about this is, of course, the Miners and the variety of characters on the team. My own favorite was Torch's sister,who shows up wanting to help the team in any capacity, and who ends up being a formidable player in her own right, earning the nickname "Nitro". It made me very happy that the Ultraball players were about equally male and female, and there wasn't much discussion that this was anything unusal. Is it going to take the destruction of the entire Earth, a Moon colony, and robotic suits before we get gender parity in sports?

Ultraball is such an unusual mix of elements that it's hard to find books like it. Readers who go back and forth between Tim Green and Mike Lupica and then Jason Fry, Joshua Levy, and D.J. MacHale will wish that they were able to take their own game into space.

I could have used a bit more information about daily life on the moon, and could have done without the jokes about pooping in the Ultrabot suit, but then I am not the target demographic!

1 comment:

  1. Both of these look so great! Especially for someone like me who enjoys a good time travel tale, football and sci-fi in general.