This sequel to Project Alpha (2015) is a soap opera in disguise—and more.
There’s never any doubt that readers have a science-fiction book in their hands. Robots are firing laser beams. Kids are flying to distant planets to find a new energy source. There’s a lot of talk about saving the Earth. But the characters have soap-opera names like Dash Conroy and Carly Diamond, and most of them are hiding dangerous secrets. Each time an evil twin or a long-lost relative shows up, readers can practically hear the dramatic organ chords. But just when the plot threatens to get too overheated, the book switches genres and turns into a sitcom. One of the characters tells an elaborate lie that leads to one ridiculous complication after another. The story ends in classic sitcom style, with earnest speeches about the value of honesty. The plot often risks becoming either melodramatic or extremely silly, but—oddly—that’s not its problem. The trouble with the plot is that there isn’t any. If it weren’t for that elaborate lie, the central conflict would have been resolved in a chapter or two. The characters would have flown to the planet, obtained a rare element, and gone on their ways. Large sections of the book are conversations about what’s going to happen in the next book in the series.
If readers are going to pick up and stick with the next book, it may need just a bit more soap opera in it. (Science fiction. 8-12)