In this distant cousin of Ender’s Game, a gaggle of young gamers get to display their virtual piloting skills with real jets. Also ostriches.
Thirteen-year-old Neil does not spend his Memorial Day weekend in his bedroom in front of a screen as he hopes. Along with 11 other geeks who have earned top scores in the online flight simulator “Chameleon,” he helps the U.S. Air Force recover an actual Chameleon, an experimental jet that can turn invisible and has gone down on a remote volcanic island. Over the course of the mission, Neil faces a series of character-building challenges ranging from the discovery that the only pizza available on the island is topped with pineapple to the even more harrowing revelation that his online best buddy, ShooterSam is actually Samantha. “Credibility” doesn’t seem to be an item on Miller’s priority list, but he does propel his assorted misfits through a series of silly set pieces and exciting aerial acrobatics on the way to a wild ride to the climax atop the aforementioned feathered steeds. Neil shows plenty of leadership ability in coping with each reverse and revelation too, and by the end, he can even share a victory hug with Sam without fantods.
A feather-light, stand-alone series opener for readers who don’t mind saying goodbye to their disbelief. (Adventure. 10-13)