In this YA debut, a teenage cadet at a space academy on the moon becomes unsettled by the abundance of mystery—and potential danger—surrounding the school.
After checking on a strange light in his bedroom closet, 15-year-old Bobby Sterling somehow wakes up strapped to a table. It’s not an alien abduction, as Bobby guesses, but merely professor Bink checking the teen’s vitals. The professor welcomes Bobby to Apeiron Academy, a prestigious school on the moon. Bobby is just one of numerous cadets, though most of them are there voluntarily as opposed to his unwitting recruitment. The cadets train in combat, using specialized technology for teleportation. Bobby, meanwhile, has no idea why the academy specifically chose him, but then he can’t get straightforward answers from any of the Apeiron faculty. Why, for one, does a machine called a Hovee appear to be searching the hallways? Bobby suspects the professor and others are hiding something, which may be related to a rumored incident at the academy 25 years ago. Fed up with murky details, Bobby starts questioning the cadets’ assigned missions. One in particular involves cloaking antennae for communication, which suggests that something out there is a threat to everyone at the school. Mueller’s launch of a sci-fi series establishes a convincing, likable protagonist. Bobby’s relentless questions are perfectly understandable, as is his resultant frustration with adults telling him relatively little. The story primarily revolves around Bobby’s learning about unfamiliar tech (for example, the telepathic thoughtboard) and interacting with peers. Though action is fleeting, the story deftly molds characters and relationships: Bobby has two possible romantic interests and an antagonist. The teen likewise recognizes and struggles to overcome his faults. All cadets get a robopanion, and Bobby becomes envious of others’ (his dog initially pales next to roommate Max’s dragon). Mueller’s prose is rich and ample but does occasionally fall flat: “a GPS like looking device” and an amusement park gate that’s “gloomy and science fiction like.”
A grand series opener that introduces characters worthy of further sci-fi adventures.