Fun YA galactic romp that is not without its thoughtful side.

The Tinker and The Fold

From the Problem with Solaris 3 series , Vol. 1

Jett, a California kid, invents a gadget that could propel an unready mankind far into space, and he’s abducted by powerful, cautious aliens.

Scott and Evan Gordon, a father-and-son sci-fi/YA writing team, offer a rambunctious launch to a new series. In southern California in the year 2028, adolescent inventor Jett Javelin, son of a theoretical physicist, takes cues from his mom’s research to create the “quantum swapper,” a DIY teleportation device capable of materializing individuals light-years away. Its use instantly makes Earth a high priority for the judgment of the Fold, a federation made up of 1,756,234 intelligent, peace-loving (and vegan) alien civilizations. The Fold takes action whenever a nonbeneficial race discovers interstellar travel. It turns out the Fold, via their chief regulators, the Aaptuuans (the variety known to UFO enthusiasts as flying-saucer “little greys”), long ago seeded throughout the universe the laws known here as the Ten Commandments. Any spacefaring civilization that violates these laws in any way—even killing and eating animals for food—is subjected to “neutralization,” doomed to likely extinction by having all electronic technology deactivated. After the Aaptuuans abduct Jett along with his invention, his behavior (and whether his people find his records and can duplicate the quantum swapper) will determine Earth’s fate. Luckily, Jett hooks up with the tentacled Tii-Eldii, a refugee from a previous Aaptuunan neutralization, and the chase is on. The fleet narrative never has any dead spots and boasts a clever range of aliens of all shapes, sizes, and appendages. It also has just the right balance of tongue-in-cheek (when a life form happens to have a tongue or a cheek) and serious elements when it comes to pondering moral issues and dilemmas. There is, naturally, a cliffhanger finale to draw readers into the next installment.

Fun YA galactic romp that is not without its thoughtful side.

Pub Date: May 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9963574-3-2

Page Count: 244

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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A clever series starter sure to leave readers wanting more Peas and Hambone adventures.

Peas And Hambone Versus Flesh-Eating Zombie Gorillas

A boy and his dog face off against a horde of zombie gorillas in this action-packed adventure by debut author Nichols.

Peter, whose nickname is “Peas,” is an ordinary 10-year-old kid with an extraordinary dog named Hambone. The dog walks and talks like a human but only when he’s alone with Peas, and he gives Hobbes (of Bill Watterson’s famous Calvin and Hobbes comic strip) a run for his money. Snarky troublemaker Hambone is determined to get even with a gorilla who threw “dirt” at him, so he and Peter break into the zoo early one morning. As they try to determine which gorilla is Hambone’s nemesis, they stumble upon an evil plot: One of the gorillas (whom Peas nicknames “Evil Doctor Crazy Gorilla”) gives the other gorillas a smoky green potion that turns them into zombies. Peas and Hambone are the only ones who stand between humanity and the zombie gorilla incursion, aside from crazy Mr. Oswalt, who’s so obsessed with World War I that he pilots a Sopwith Camel biplane around the neighborhood, and the Mama’s Boys biker gang, which fights with foam swords and squirt guns. Peas, who’s seen a lot of scary movies, knows that where there’s a potion, there must be an antidote. Hambone, who suffered a “childhood trauma involving the movie King Kong,” has a serious hatred of gorillas and zombies, and he comes up with the plan that eventually leads them to the mad scientist’s lair. Peas and Hambone’s first outing, full of chase scenes, absurd combat, cross-dressing and gross-out humor, is a madcap adventure sure to appeal to fans of Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants books and Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. The vocabulary and pacing are well-suited to reluctant readers, and Nichols’ silly, coined phrases (such as “whup-butt” and “Oh-my-shnippies!”) are catchy enough that kids might adopt them.

A clever series starter sure to leave readers wanting more Peas and Hambone adventures.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-615-87100-4

Page Count: 120

Publisher: SecretSquirrel Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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An unevenly executed high school drama, but one that addresses important social issues.

A HIGH SCHOOL NOTHING

In Cliett’s (More Than Friends, 2016, etc.) YA novel, a high school “nothing” becomes something that she never expected.

The initially unnamed protagonist is a high school loner who feels uninspired. She recently lost her father to suicide, which left her and her mother broke and living in a trailer park, referred to by one character as “The Land of Broken Dreams.” At school, she notes, “Kids and teachers act like I don’t exist,” which she begins to believe herself—until she meets an older high school boy on her bus nicknamed “Nietzsche.” He wears all black, reads philosophy books, and the seat beside him is always empty. Intrigued by their shared marginalization, the girl makes it her mission to learn more about him. She follows him around and spends hours poring over philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s works—an exercise that she enjoys, much to her surprise. Eventually, she finds enough courage to speak to the boy, who invites her to join his underground philosophy club. This club stokes her newfound academic passion and gives her a sense of belonging and identity; the members even give her a new nickname: “Socrates.” Not long after Socrates joins, however, the club takes a dark, serious turn: the members, a gaggle of students “outside the school’s social order,” decide to pursue an aggressive anti-bullying campaign involving a fake bomb scare. Cliett’s novel does do some important work in humanizing its young outcasts as they’re moved to extremes over the course of the story, and it effectively highlights how vulnerable teenagers can be to social structures that threaten their senses of self. However, the novel’s overall craftsmanship feels substandard; the characters, though conceptually interesting, are blandly written, and a sudden assault of plot twists at the end of the story has a slapdash feel. The swiftness with which Socrates finds a sense of resolve following a gruesome tragedy is also unrealistic.

An unevenly executed high school drama, but one that addresses important social issues.

Pub Date: June 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5464-2630-1

Page Count: 270

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 29, 2018

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