Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Release Date: September 22, 2015
Chris Nichols lives on an asteroid, one that is almost planetoid in nature as it is now in the sun's orbit and is in the sweet zone where it is actually habitable. Chris and his family, although with 100 other people work on the asteroid as miners and farmers on the first ever space colony. As it goes with these things, there are going to be two months where the asteroid will be incommunicado with Earth, which is ominously called the Blackout. In order to make the Blackout less scary, they plan a giant party for the countdown, but when they reach zero, instead of a party the colony is brutally attacked. Chris' father manages to get Chris and some of the other children down into the mines, but once there it is up to the kids to figure out how to survive.
It's funny that I was reading this book while also reading The Martian. Funny enough, the wonderful realistic science of The Martian, did not detract from this story although it may have pointed out some of the flaws that I otherwise would not have noticed. These kids are twelve and so I must give them some leeway.
Chris is the natural leader of the group, both because he thinks logically and isn't quick to do anything. He takes the responsibility of helping these kids with great seriousness, a good thing since the youngest among them is only five. Elena,Chris' friend and fellow survivor, is the more militant one of the group, insisting on attacking the Landers (as they end up being called), but lacks any sort of empathy or understanding for their situation. Although she was redeemed in the end, the constant urging from Elena to attack got old fast, especially when such things were being discussed with a five and seven-year-old around the corner. I kept wondering, if these older kids got killed, what would happen to the little ones? Sure, there was the one girl who always stayed back, but it seemed reckless in the extreme. Don't get me wrong, there are some very good reasons why they need to attack the Landers, but they are just kids and some of their plans are not always well thought out.
One of my few complaints had to do with some of the logic of this world. Chris is completely brainwashed by the mining company his parents work for, which on one level made sense, but I could never figure out why his parents didn't try to rectify such fantasies. It also made no sense that one of the kids, whose mother is a doctor, knows medicine herself. My dad repairs computers for a living. I've seen him do it, but couldn't for the life of me do it myself. Thus, I felt the medic character was a bit too convenient with her medical knowledge and thought that the story, which felt very realistic, could have done with a dose of realism in this one area too.
On the whole, I thought it was a fun adventure story full of a lot of what-would-I-do moments that kids will just gobble up. Of course, it will be a series, something that was not advertised anywhere on the book, but I guess I should just get used to that since this seems to be the way publishers do things now. It almost feels like a trick sometimes.