GALACTIC FUN PARK

From the Galactic Fun Park series

An imaginative novel but one that lacks heart.

Amusement park–dwelling animals band together to remain in their home in Bell’s middle-grade novel.

Galactic Fun Park is not just a popular amusement complex. It’s also home to an entire society of critters that live off leftover food and garbage that people leave behind. It’s all well and good during the prosperous summer months, but now that the off-season has come, the park’s residents will have to get by on far less. Minister Balmore, the leader of the rats, has seen the population of his group grow, and he’s desperate to recruit new rat warriors to help defend his colony’s preferred territory: the funnel cake shop. The cats, led by Bubba Squeakers, live in Rover’s Landing, where the roller coaster is located, while the cockroaches, whose leader is known by the title Grand Jeffery, inhabit the park’s Moon Man section. There’s more to worry about than mere territorial disputes, however. Exterminators have been spotted in the park, and no creature is safe. The human park manager, Mr. Jenkins, doesn’t see the harm in having a few animals here and there, but the head exterminator, Maurice, is on a personal mission against all pests: “These varmints have overbred, and it’s only a matter of time before they attack the guests,” Maurice tells his less-bloodthirsty assistant, Ron. “Being at the top of the food chain gives us the right over these creatures.” The only thing that makes sense is for the animals to unite, benefiting from the wisdom of such leaders as the raccoons’ Bandit Queen and the squirrels’ ancient Postmaster. But can they set aside old feuds and new power struggles?

Bell’s prose is buoyant over the course of this novel, and she fleshes out the world of the park with rich detail, as in a description of one of its main attractions, the ZenithTarium: “The raccoons who lived in the area revered the planetarium-like theater with its sleek steel walls and rocket-styled seats.” For all the worldbuilding that Bell does over the course of the novel, however, she fails to bring the same level of depth to her characters. Although figures such as Bubba Squeakers, Grand Jeffery, and others represent strange and inventive societies, they lack strong definition as individuals. Even Minister Balmore, who seems, at times, to have a bit more pathos than the other players, feels disappointingly two-dimensional in the end. As a result, it may be difficult for the reader to care very much about them even as they are all threatened with extermination. Overall, Bell fails to sell the stakes of the story, in part, because she sketches out the world with such a gentle touch. Tensions aren’t played up as much as they could be, and a few of the rivalries feel ill-defined. It’s a shame, because the premise of the work is such a strong one, with a bunch of animals challenging humans for amusement park supremacy. Further sequels are planned, so perhaps these weaknesses may be addressed before the next volume appears.

An imaginative novel but one that lacks heart.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-7367909-2-2

Page Count: 314

Publisher: Two Turkey Publishing, LLC

Review Posted Online: Oct. 24, 2021

CHRONAL ENGINE

Action and enthusiasm aplenty, but, like most time-travel tales, not much for internal logic.

A Back to the Future–style romp through time, though with more loose ends than a bowl of spaghetti.

Hardly have teen twins Kyle and Emma and their younger brother (and narrator) Max arrived for a stay at their reclusive grandfather’s Texas ranch than the old man announces that he’s about to have a massive heart attack, shows them a working time machine in the basement and sends them out to a nearby paleontological site where they find fossilized sneaker prints among the dinosaur tracks. Then a stranger grabs Emma and vanishes in a flash of light—leaving the remaining sibs and a ranch hand’s bow-wielding daughter Petra to zoom in a Volkswagen Beetle back 70 million–plus years to the rescue. Not only does the late Cretaceous landscape turn out to be well stocked with crocodilian Deinosuchus and other toothy predators, a human gent falsely (as it turns out) claiming to be a refugee from 1919 steps out of the bushes to guide the others to the evidently dino-proof frame house in which Emma is being held. Everyone steams back to the present on the kidnapper’s motor launch, which is also fitted out as a time machine. Showing blithe disregard for potential paradoxes, the author sheds enough light on his byzantine back story to ensure that the protagonists will be taking more trips through time and closes with notes on dinosaurs and on the history of “Robinsonades.”

Action and enthusiasm aplenty, but, like most time-travel tales, not much for internal logic. (recommended reading) (Science fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 20, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-60849-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

THE HORSE ROAD

Overall, an exciting adventure.

The first of a projected trio of horse-centered historical novels takes readers to a central Asia of some 2,000 years ago.

To 14-year-old Kallisto's wealthy trader father, she is a plump peach, soft and lovely; to her horse-trainer mother, a former slave, she is a warrior yet unproven. Kalli, shy and stammering everywhere but on a horse, begins to prove herself when she and her friend Batu catch a glimpse over a mountainside of thousands of Middle Kingdom warriors preparing to attack their town. Servants herd the family's elite horses to safety inside the walls, but Kalli herself barters for their food and water, shields them and cares for them; when her own mare, Swan, is stolen, she dons armor and weapons and rides to the rescue. In the end, she wins Swan not in battle, but through shrewd bargaining—the true daughter of both her parents. Harrison's story is based upon a historical battle in 102 B.C. between soldiers of Chinese emperor Wu-Ti and inhabitants of the city of Ferghana. The emperor wanted the golden-hued Persian horses, ancestors of today's Akhal-Teke breed; the siege ended diplomatically with the opening of the famous Silk Road. Harrison's impressive research brings this relatively unknown era to life; her characters ring true, and Kallisto's equestrian abilities, while impressive, are fully credible. The opening chapters, however, are both confusing and chaotic, with few cues to orient young readers to time and place.

Overall, an exciting adventure. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59990-846-5

Page Count: 374

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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