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THE BOXES by William Sleator

THE BOXES

By William Sleator

Age Range: 10 - 12

Pub Date: May 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-525-46012-8
Publisher: Dutton

Sleator (The Beasties, 1997, etc.) offers a strained mix of aliens and time travel in this tepid work of science fiction. When Annie, 15, is entrusted with two mysterious boxes by her secretive, young-looking Uncle Marco, her reaction is entirely understandable: She opens both. The first crate releases a crab-like creature that asexually reproduces in the basement of her Aunt Ruth’s house; the second, in her bedroom, reveals a clock-like device that can slow the flow of time. Of course, the boxes are somehow connected—the clock, which the crab-creatures refer to as “Lord,” enables them to erect a miniature palace within a very short time. Rather than focus on the aliens, the story shifts to the evil Crutchley Development Corporation, which, while buying up local houses to erect a super mall, discovers the secret in Annie’s basement, and steals the clock device. With her friend, Henry, Annie escapes the clutches of Crutchley employees and relatives, and returns with the clock, which, Uncle Marco divulges, is the key to his youthful appearance. As the Crutchley team bursts in, the crab creatures create a vortex through which the three humans escape. That lets Sleator off the hook for the moment, without providing any real explanation, and negates all chances for a satisfying ending. Readers will have to wait to see if there’s a sequel. (Fiction. 10-12)