The Sword in the Stone meets Ender’s Game, with most of the suspense and all of the logic sucked from both.
Pipsqueak Texas teen Ben Stone is recruited by Merlin, a little boy who doesn’t talk like one and claims, with patent absurdity considering what follows, that “there’s no such thing as magic.” He finds himself joining four (later five) peers at a secret British base run by the ageless Percival Pellinore, last surviving Knight of the Round Table. Their mission? To become instant spaceship pilots and defend Earth from the alien fleet that will be arriving in a week. Their weapons? X-Calibur, an ancient spacecraft of alien manufacture that will, conveniently, allow only a child to pilot it, plus four inferior copies of the craft kitted up like cargo-cult models from images of the original. Having had his butt repeatedly kicked (an expression of which Pace is inordinately fond) in practice games against sword-wielding practice robots and his fellow candidates, Ben seems like a failure until he demonstrates reckless courage and leadership qualities. So when the aliens arrive early, he takes charge and blasts off in X-Calibur (with the original sword, which was made centuries ago from a strip of hull metal) to battle their leader. There are no surprises here.
“Don’t think,” says Ben unoriginally. “Do.” That seems to be Pace’s modus operandi too, but here, the Force is definitely not with him. (Science fantasy. 10-12)