In this uneven space adventure, two children defy their alien overlords to go on an intergalactic search for a cure for their dying father.
Ryan and Becky’s parents have always taught them to respect and obey the family’s secret alien benefactors, the Pipe Men. But when their father is accidentally poisoned and the Pipe Men refuse to release him for treatment, their mother sends them on an illicit journey through the Pipe Men’s interplanetary portals to search for the Brocine, the aliens who have the only antidote. Before long, the children find themselves in the middle of a galactic power struggle over control of the portals. While the highly implausible worldbuilding doesn’t stand up to close inspection, it does have a certain pulp appeal, and the detailed descriptions make it easy to visualize the different aliens that Ryan and Becky meet. Unfortunately, the novel can’t decide whether it’s taking itself seriously or not. Silly character names like “Grav-e” (pronounced “gravy”) and “Tast-e” (pronounced “tasty”) might have worked in a pure farce or parody, but Thompson is also using Ryan’s earnest first-person narration to condemn the Pipe Men’s exploitation of other alien races.
Follow the title’s advice—escape from the Pipe Men and avoid this unfunny mess. (Science fiction. 9-12)