In Hanson’s YA debut, a 13-year-old finds himself stranded on a hostile, plague-ridden alien world, hunted by mutated humans and a fiendish monster-maker who covets his DNA.
Spacefaring humanity barely survived the Virus, an extraterrestrial plague that ravaged Earth and its far-flung mining colonies on other planets. Gideon Wells is the adolescent son of husband-and-wife scientists who fought against the scourge; his father fled to one of the off-world colonies (called “Off World,” in fact), while his mother managed to find a cure for Gideon, among others—but not in time to spare herself and millions of other people. Gideon is now an outcast in a boarding school–like Quarantine complex, but he’s a skilled pilot who’s eager to redeem his family legacy by flying vital medicine to Off World. It’s practically a suicide mission, though: the mining planet is crawling with deadly native predators, including plants with flesh-melting saliva. The human colonists, mostly miners, carry the Virus, which has combined with curative serum to turn them into ill-tempered, purple-skinned people who can transform into fanged monstrosities. Gideon and his few allies (including his romantic interest, a crossbow-wielding Irish girl resonant of Katniss Everdeen) are pursued not only by fierce Off World creatures, but also by ravenous “Rippers” created by a megalomaniac scientist named Gwendolyn, who wants Gideon’s DNA for a special project. It turns out that she’s also Gideon’s absentee father’s former lab assistant. Readers may find it a bit much when family squabbles erupt during bloody battles and attacks by para-human lynch mobs. Still, they won’t be able to say that this novel lacks action. Indeed, the story spills so much blood that, if there were some other R-rated elements, it could easily be called splatterpunk. The plucky, aggressive young hero absorbs massive physical punishment along the way but keeps rallying. This fact provides a major clue to one of several twists in the book’s third act, which leaves enough story strands dangling for a potential sequel. Overall, the characterizations lean toward the broad side, but fans of comic-book fiends and feats will be sated.
adventure novel that delivers an adolescent monster mash.