In Edstrom’s debut young-adult novel, aliens live beneath the Canadian Rockies—much to the surprise of a group of teenagers on an extended backcountry hike.
Sixteen-year-old Danny Michaelson and his sister, Em, embark on a hike, led by the grizzled, veteran mountaineer Harvin, with their friends Wa, Breyona, Shiv and Bronson. Six days into the hike, Danny and Breyona encounter a strange, shrieking alien creature with two heads—and are then rescued by a “bigfoot.” Later, a bigfoot takes the teens to a vast underground city called Undermountain, where the shaggy humanoids, who call themselves “the People,” make their home. The People turn out to be a benign alien race whose members take an oath to “do no harm,” and they’ve settled on Earth to protect humanity from the shrieking aliens, known as the tangeg. Edstrom creatively blends folklore and science fiction; the novel’s most original and best conceit is that the legendary bigfoot is an alien species—not a missing link in humanity’s evolution. The interaction between the species is absorbing, as is the novel’s examination of the philosophical problems facing a pacifist society under attack. Unfortunately, the human characters often lack this complexity and sometimes come off as two-dimensional. Shiv, for example, speaks in near-robotic phrases, such as “Let us keep our voices low so the others don’t overhear.” Although this quirk is likely meant as characterization, it instead rings hollow. However, this novel does have some engaging ideas, and it combines elements of young-adult adventure, cryptozoology and alien invasion, with just a touch of “Hollow Earth” theory, to create a rollicking tale of discovery.
A shaky but promising start to a new sci-fi YA trilogy.