A young hero exposes an evil plot in this sci-fi adventure set in an alternate version of New York City.
Ethan Weiss is an ordinary boy, although he lives in an America that not many people would recognize. Black (Zombie Scout, 2013) mixes the familiar with enough believably different details to create a convincing alternate world in which peacocks have overrun New York and two moons rise in the night sky. The characters are still relatable, however: Ethan is a lonely boy with few friends other than his neighbors; his mother, Rose; and his grandfather Simon. Ethan terribly misses his father, who died of an illness a few years ago, and dreams of seeing him again on his grandfather’s invention, the Psychokinetic Space Time Teletransporter—a television that shows scenes from the past. Before he can try to do so, though, Simon brings home a parrot named Churchill, the property of the city’s most powerful citizen. Churchill’s gift for gab has accidentally revealed a plot to “Enslave the city,” and Simon has bird-napped him so he can reveal the conspiracy to the authorities. But before he can, a gigantic wave rises up in the two rivers surrounding the city, cutting off any escape. Although the conspiracy may seem far-fetched, it launches an exciting escape plot. Despite a slight tendency toward wordiness, Black always keeps the action moving. Ethan, his grandfather, and a band of rebels evade soldiers in an underground cavern and try to fly over the frozen wave in an old-fashioned airship. As they try to get out of the city, the group witnesses atrocities reminiscent of the treatment of Jews during the Holocaust. This creates a sense of real danger, but some incidents—a mother and baby pursued by soldiers, the execution of an innocent man—may be disturbing to more sensitive readers. However, Black emphasizes the bravery of ordinary people when faced with the horrors of war. In the end, Ethan learns how critical family and friends are in overcoming adversity.
An imaginative adventure in a fully realized alternate world that young readers will surely want to visit.