Adult novelist Ross (White Flag Down, 2007, etc.) makes his middle-grade debut with a boy’s desperate search to save himself and his crew from a horrible fate in a post-apocalyptic future.
Scientists didn’t realize the nanites they invented to eat smog would decide humans were a sort of pollution too, pushing them to the mountaintops and covering the rest of the land with a white fog. After hundreds of years, the highest heights are now controlled by the Five Families, with everyone else consigned to the slums below. Chess and his scavenger crew patrol the margins of the Fog by airship, “diving” to retrieve anything of value within reach of his tether. They’ve managed to scrape by, but Lord Kadoc has heard about his abilities to dive into the Fog and wants to enslave Chess to scavenge only for him…for as long as Chess can last. Ross wastes no time with his worldbuilding, establishing Chess and his crew as a misfit found family working the Fog by day and sharing stories by night. Readers will chuckle at the garbled remnants of their times in such tales as “Skywalker Trek,” in which the Klingons battle the Jedi when they are not fighting Tribbles and Ewoks.
It’s a fresh approach, convincingly delivered, with overtones reminiscent of Dickens…the only thing missing is a sequel, which readers will hope won’t be far behind. (Science fiction. 8-12)