George and Annie again tackle “crazy squillionaire” Alioth Merak as the megalomaniac takes another stab at dominating the world (and beyond).
As in the series’ four previous episodes, the plot is largely a jumble that loosely connects densely factual—or, as appropriate, speculative—tiny-type side essays, many credited to specific experts. The 19 here are on such cutting-edge topics as cyberbullying, driverless cars, the origins of our oceans, the challenges of living on Mars, and the nature of objective reality. George and Annie, both white to judge from Parsons’ spot illustrations (Annie is labeled “dyslexic”), are elated to be accepted into an astronaut-training program, but that quickly changes to suspicion as the “training” takes on aspects of a competitive reality show. Soon they discover that the program’s head is actually Merak in disguise, armed with a vague scheme to dominate the solar system with the aid of lots of robots and a Star Trek–style “quantum teleportation” device. They enlist allies and rivals (notably dark-skinned twins Venus and Neptune, who start out mean but ultimately decide to try tennis rather than space travel) to stymie the villain both on Earth and at a secret base on Jupiter’s moon Europa. The informational content closes with a real space tourist’s account of the profound impact of seeing our planet from orbit.
Will likely sell well, as usual—but also as usual, the essays and the storyline are aimed at different audiences. (Informational science fiction. 10-12)