It’s a bleak and bizarre future that Goldie Alexander has envisaged for her middle grade readers, but it’s also one full of wonder, fun and adventure with many of life’s lessons being taught in unique ways.
Set in the very distant future, when most of Earth’s population has been wiped out in The Great Disaster, four hatchlings live in tiny cells, only communicating with each other through avatars during their daily lessons. Their lives are ruled by a great, hidden computer known as ComCen, and they’re cared for by tutor holograms.
The hatchlings struggle to get along in their lessons, which are mini-adventures trying to teach them about life. Then one day, their avatars are sent back to the year 2043AD, just before The Great Disaster, to observe a traditional family. When something goes wrong, the four hatchlings materialise and find themselves stuck in the past with no way home.
Aided by local twins Rio and Charlie, the narrator, Pya, and her fellow hatchlings Zumi, Jafet and Trist must all learn to work together if they are to survive in the real world after being left behind in an evacuation.
Through a series of challenges and dangers, the six young people progressively begin to understand that working together helps everyone and achieves much more than working alone or being selfish. Bonds are formed, and collectively, they grow into a smart, brave team with a greater understanding of life and friendship.
The complexity of Alexander’s future world takes a few chapters to sink into. Told from Pya’s perspective, it takes time to begin understanding her world and how it works. The reader is bombarded with unexplained colloquialisms from the start – the first half page alone mentions ComCen, Weirwolf, Tutor-Henny, Cell-Q3 and food-tube with no context of what’s what or where we are. As the story progresses, it all becomes clear but it’s only then that the wonder and adventure take hold.
Once settled into Alexander’s imaginative world, Pya’s story is a delight. Alexander has filled her future Earth time periods with enough detail to make them seem real, and the more supernatural elements, such as the Shape-Shifters, meld nicely into the more standard characters and elements of an apocalyptic Earth.
Her characterisations are all recognisable and age-appropriate, as is the dialogue, and it’s easy to identify with all six of the heroes, even the selfish ones like Zumi.
Filled with excitement, danger and a generous sprinkling of laughs, it’s great to read a novel where there is collective growth, not just the personal growth of a single, central character. Having a strong female lead and having the story told from her perspective is also a bonus, as it seems so rare in juvenile science fiction.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Rating out of 10: 7
Publisher: Five Senses Education
Release Date: 2016