In Samuelson’s debut novel, two young cousins—levelheaded Nick and rambunctious Sid, both sons of elite astronauts and both students at the Junior Astronaut Academy near the town of Waterbeach—blast off into adventure in the not-too-distant future.
The boys’ fathers, who left on a secret and very dangerous mission into deep space, have gone missing. Nick and Sid race out into the void with the newly built spaceship Destiny Copernicus 2 to try to find the vanished astronauts and help them complete their vital mission. Along the way, they face plenty of excitement and colorful dangers, from Nick’s crush on Veronica Appleyard, niece of the National Space Institute’s commanding officer, to the misadventures of wild Sid and the strange wonders of an unknown planet orbiting directly opposite Earth—“Earth-180.” The two kids go from cadets to explorers, making contact with a strange alien race they call Orangies—both friendly and rogue—and use brains and brawn to help save the day. The upbeat, charming book has a straightforward plot that keeps the reader’s attention from start to finish. Characters are simple but sympathetic, with a level of development to make them distinguishable and entertaining. There’s just enough romance to add zest to the narrative, too. The science is lightweight and not fit for this world. For instance, after spending time with the Orangies, a flummoxed professor writes: “How the Orangies harness gravity to their will, I cannot say, and I should not presume I could ever understand. Based on my time with them, I now believe gravity is faster than light—that it is instantaneous—and distance, however great, offers no obstacle to it.” The counter-Earth concept is classic sci-fi, but here, for a change, it’s not a dystopia or a war story. Text is remarkably clean in copy editing and proofreading, with nary a typo, while a bit of bathroom humor and light swearing might appeal to preteen sensibilities. Plus, there’s more to come: this is just the first book in a planned series.
Bright, pleasant sci-fi for kids.