Monday, June 14, 2010

The Suburb Beyond the Stars by M.T. Anderson

The Norumbegans and the Thussar were at war for many years before deciding there was a more civilized way to settle their territory dispute: play a game. Each race chooses a human to represent them in the Game, a kind of labyrinth. The winner of the Game creates a new labyrinth for the next players. In the first of this series, The Game of Sunken Places, Brian and Gregory have been chosen to participate in the Game that Gregory's cousin, Prudence, has created. Brian was representing the Numrumbegans and Gregory was representing the Thussar and the boys worked out that they really, really wanted the Norumbegans to win. What with the Thussar being kind of really evil.

Now, Brian and Gregory are hard at work creating the next round of the Game, when an alien tries to kill Brian. Something seems to have gone wrong. The Thussar have become tired of the Game, and seem to be going for straight invasion. But sneakily. Brian and Gregory try to contact Prudence to find out what's going on, but Prudence has disappeared without a trace. The boys head back to Vermont to search for her, and find that the invasion is already well underway.

This was not quite my cup of tea. I have not actually read The Game of Sunken Places, and maybe that would have helped. There was enough explanation to get a pretty good idea of what had happened in the first book, but perhaps I would have understood the characters better. As it was, Brian seemed like an indecisive wimp and Gregory was an attention seeking, whinny, pain in the behind. My biggest issue with the book was that the writing seemed kind of...amateur. It was choppy, dragging in some places, speeding ahead in others, and the boy's dialogue was awkward and unrealistic. Reading this book and comparing it to Octavian Nothing is a considerable contrast, although they were obviously written for very different audiences.

However, this would an excellent choice for middle school boys. It has action, adventure, quests, war, aliens doing gross things, and boy heroes. It would also be a good high-low choice for a high school boy reading at a middle school level. It's quite short and zips right along, ending on a cliff hanger so clearly another book is coming.

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