Three stories wind round one another in unexpected ways in this science-fiction offering peppered with recurring symbols.
Fifteen-year-old Ariel Burgess survived a nightmarish attack on his home village by hiding in a refrigerator. He was taken in by a family in Virginia, and to his chagrin, he has now been packed off along with his adoptive brother, Max, to stay at Camp Merrie-Seymour for Boys, a free perk his family receives for the work done by their inventor father for a research group. A multitude of strange and grimly funny characters populates the camp, including Mrs. Nussbaum, a prim therapist whose forced cheer is at one point hilariously described as being “about one-half-octave above ‘drunkenly enthusiastic’ and just below the sound baby dolphins make” and who offers the first hint that all may not be as it seems. Two other narrative threads—one involving a ship called the Alex Crow stuck in the ice during the 1800s and the other detailing the madness of a character called the “melting man,” who hears various voices urging him to commit acts of violence—are juxtaposed against Ariel and Max’s story, smartly weaving their ways into it right up to the surprising conclusion.
Magnificently bizarre, irreverent and bitingly witty, this outlandish novel is grounded by likable characters and their raw experiences. (Science fiction. 14 & up)