In LeVasseur’s debut middle-grade sci-fi novel, a friendly extraterrestrial girl whisks a Nebraska farm boy away for a wild adventure of Martian intrigue, rebellion and invasion.
Some of the earliest sci-fi stories for juveniles told tales of adolescent boys on flights to Mars, and now, more than a century later, that tradition continues in this illustrated yarn. Gilbert Sullivan is a boy on the lookout for whatever has been making crop circles in his family’s fields. One day, he’s suddenly spirited away to Mars by a carefree alien, who’s piloting an advanced flying saucer. The blue-skinned Aoleon and her people are from the Andromeda constellation. Their current home on Mars, in a concealed “bubbleverse” slightly out of phase with Earth, is an ancient refugee colony that was established during an interstellar war with the fiendish, reptilian Draconians. Disguising Gilbert as a fellow Martian, Aoleon takes him on a tour of the Martian megalopolis and even enrolls him as a student in the Martian Space Academy, where he meets numerous alien species. There, the Earth boy develops his latent psi talents and plays a very Quidditch-like game of “psiball” while he’s at it. But all is not well on the red planet: Its longtime democratic government has been taken over by an absolute dictator called the Luminon, who, unsurprisingly, is really a Draconian in disguise. Manipulating the Martian public’s dependence on milk, the Luminon attempts to launch an invasion of America’s beef- and dairy-farm country—that is, until the meddling Gilbert, Aoleon and some of their dissident allies go into action against him. There’s plenty of action in this lengthy narrative; its latter half plays like one video game boss-battle after another, as the heroes prevail again and again over evil foes due to their own superpowers or lucky last-minute rescues by others. The video game comparison is particularly apt in view of the author’s extensive 3-D illustrations, which visualize the cool alien environments and technology quite nicely. However, the humans and Martians look more like denizens of a sub-Pixar CGI cartoon, such as Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius or Planet 51. Along the way, the author also embeds numerous references to Stanley Kubrick films and real-life UFO/conspiracy theories.
Mars needs milk in this tongue-in-cheek, slam-bang bit of YA escapism that’s best for members of the PlayStation-playing generation.