Hautman’s latest features wacky adventures in a near-future small town packed with engineers.
Flinkwater, Iowa, is a small town where most residents—like narrator Ginger’s parents—work in some capacity for a tech company that makes robots. Smart but smarter-mouthed, sarcastic, and high-spirited Ginger recounts five loosely connected episodes in an engagingly conversational tone. First, Flinkwater residents are “bonking” themselves into catatonia while using their tablets and computers. As the naturally curious engineers all bonk themselves in checking it out, Ginger and boy genius Billy must solve the mystery and cure the town. The second story involves smuggling an escaped lab animal to safety, a sad-looking dog with a collar that broadcasts his thoughts as speech. The third finds Ginger’s hilariously awkward quest for a first kiss juxtaposed against a light nanotechnology subplot. The fourth and fifth build directly upon each other: in these, the Department of Homeland Security—annoying but till this point harmless and on the scene since bonking emerged as a security threat in the first episode—takes a turn as villain in a convoluted evil scheme; it has high stakes and delightful twists, but it unravels too easily. The book ends with a “where are they now”–style afterword and a parsing of the book’s science from its fantasy elements.
Fast, funny episodes featuring creative takes on close-to-reality science. (Science fiction. 8-14)