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Skurzynski revisits the near-future dystopia of her Virtual War (1997) in a Crichtonesque thriller with creepy Oedipal overtones. A year after winning the Isles of Hiva in simulated combat for the Western Hemisphere Federation, Corgan is a bit bored with tropical paradise; so a visit from his former teammate Sharla finds him eager to deepen their tentative romance. But Sharla has a surprise for Corgan: she cloned their friend Brig before his death, and smuggled one of the babies (nicknamed Seabrig) to Corgan, while she raises the other (Brigand) in the Domed City, whose ruling Council has plans for his tactical brilliance. Corgan develops a big-brotherly affection for the puppyish Seabrig, who is programmed to mature at an astonishing rate, but comes to despise Brigand as spoiled, with an unhealthy fixation on Sharla. When Corgan suspects Brigand of manufacturing an accident that costs Seabrig his hand, their rivalry flares into violence and Corgan returns to the Domed City to discover that the now-teenaged Brigand has more grandiose ambitions than he imagined. Nobody can top Skurzynski at creating an atmosphere of sinister paranoia; while Corgan desperately searches for someone, anyone, he can trust, his naïve self-deception about his society, his friends, and his own motivations lead him to blunder into near disaster. Despite too many awkward recaps of the first in the series, the taut psychosexual tension and breakneck pace of events carry the story hurtling towards a cliffhanger ending that will leave fans on edge for the next installment. (Science fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: July 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-689-84463-5

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2002

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In this riveting futuristic novel, Spaz, a teenage boy with epilepsy, makes a dangerous journey in the company of an old man and a young boy. The old man, Ryter, one of the few people remaining who can read and write, has dedicated his life to recording stories. Ryter feels a kinship with Spaz, who unlike his contemporaries has a strong memory; because of his epilepsy, Spaz cannot use the mind probes that deliver entertainment straight to the brain and rot it in the process. Nearly everyone around him uses probes to escape their life of ruin and poverty, the result of an earthquake that devastated the world decades earlier. Only the “proovs,” genetically improved people, have grass, trees, and blue skies in their aptly named Eden, inaccessible to the “normals” in the Urb. When Spaz sets out to reach his dying younger sister, he and his companions must cross three treacherous zones ruled by powerful bosses. Moving from one peril to the next, they survive only with help from a proov woman. Enriched by Ryter’s allusions to nearly lost literature and full of intriguing, invented slang, the skillful writing paints two pictures of what the world could look like in the future—the burned-out Urb and the pristine Eden—then shows the limits and strengths of each. Philbrick, author of Freak the Mighty (1993) has again created a compelling set of characters that engage the reader with their courage and kindness in a painful world that offers hope, if no happy endings. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-439-08758-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Blue Sky/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2000

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Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-399-23146-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1999

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