It’s easy to steal a spaceship by mistake. It’s a little harder to steal a sun.
Thirteen-year-old Kyler Centaurus doesn’t exactly mean to steal his family’s cruiser spaceship. But he’s steamed enough at his rambunctious, bullying brothers and his parents’ one-sided adjudication of sibling fights that he does program the ship as getaway transport. Although he changes his mind, he accidentally hits the “execute” button while sleeping alone onboard. Elsewhere in the universe, mutant Figerella Jammeslot, also 13, hires herself out to space pirates. She’s never blown up a sun before, but she’s gifted at demolition, poor, and an orphan—she needs the money. Ky’s and Fig’s paths converge in a rollicking space adventure centered on the theft and use for terrorism of a portable, artificial sun (readers should pack their disbelief-suspenders) and colored by Harry Potter references, slapstick, and copious jokes in the fart/armpit genres. Although the text offers overt political commentary on despotic rule, corporate power, and media control, its exploration of (real-world–analogous) ethnic, racial, religious, and refugee oppression is diluted by being only metaphorical—and it’s bleached out by the fact that somehow everyone appears to be white except one morally corrupt brown person.
Fans of gross-out humor and hand-wavy science will have a blast if they can stomach a mostly white 26th century; others should look to Kevin Emerson’s Last Day on Mars (2017) instead. (Science fiction. 8-11)