Entomologist Hosler offers an epic adventure that delivers an astonishing amount of information in its interstices.
Impetuous, baseball-cap–clad Lucy, a rising young beetle researcher, heads the first expedition to leave New Coleopolis since its founding 1,002 years ago, when the god Scarabus annihilated old Coleopolis with a barrage of coconuts. As in any good quest novel, her band is made up of a variety of types: There’s maternal Prof. Bombardier, pun-loving firefly Raef, doughty Hercules beetle Mossy, and crusty Prof. Owen, a Cape stag beetle. New Coleopolis is a beetlecentric theocracy, and Lucy’s expedition poses significant threats to the status quo—which is why very early on, Prof. Owen (who is evil as well as crusty) engineers its abandonment. Lost in the wilderness, Lucy and her companions encounter spiders, birds, bats and an enormous variety of insects—even beetles—that they’ve never heard of. Cool bug facts are presented in infodumps (and further explained in disarmingly personal closing annotations); fortunately, they are so interesting that readers are likely to forgive the contrivance. Hosler’s clean lines sometimes make foliage difficult to distinguish from characters, but he invests his beetles with tremendous personality, and the dialogue never lags. Though the novel’s a trifle overstuffed, the clarity of its theme and appeal of its characters carry the day.
Hosler’s sincere excitement in both the pursuit of knowledge and the power of comics makes these bugs eminently memorable. (illustrated cast of characters) (Graphic fantasy. 10 & up)