Science Fiction

Review: George and the Galactic Games by H.S. Stone

George and the Galactic Games book cover
Image from HS Stone; used by permission

Title: George and the Galactic Games

Author: H.S. Stone

Genre: Science Fiction

George is the new kid in school. He also recently lost his father to a heart attack. In an effort to cheer him up, George’s mother takes him on a camping trip. That’s when their troubles really begin. Extraterrestrials abduct both mother and son. Now George finds himself an unwilling participant in the Yumal Contests, a galactic game against an alien species. He must overcome his fears and limitations to win because these games are not just a casual sporting event… his life hangs in the balance.

After reading H.S. Stone’s Beyond New Eden and Keep Your Enemies Close, I’ve been meaning to read the rest of his books. It took me a while to get around to it, but I finally found this one as an ebook for three dollars, and figured it was as good a place to start as any.

George was really enjoyable. I admired his courage and his determination not to let his team down, even though he was sure he wasn’t good at anything. His grief over his father’s death also seemed very real. My only problem with him is the same problem I have with almost every middle grade book with a male main character – as a 17-year-old girl, I didn’t connect with him as well as I wanted to.

I enjoyed the other characters on George’s team, as well. (Except Frank, but I’m not sure anyone liked Frank.) Roger and Susan, the middle aged couple, were fun, but I especially liked Emily, who was George’s age. She was optimistic and encouraging, but she seemed to have a very similar skill set to George, which was a little weird.

I guessed why things weren’t working right long before it was explained – but it wasn’t super obvious. I had to actually think about putting the pieces together, as opposed to just realizing what’s going on. This is a middle grade book, though, and I doubt the book’s intended audience would guess it.

I loved the idea of the Yumal Contest games. At first, it made me think of a less gory, middle grade Hunger Games with aliens, but as I read on, I realized that wasn’t true at all. The concept was a lot like a challenge-based STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) class I’m taking, with a combination of physical and mental challenges for points. But here, there were the teams’ freedom on the line – losers stayed behind as slaves. It was a fascinating idea, and I loved every moment of it.

I really enjoyed George and the Galactic Games. It was fun, and even though it wasn’t as lighthearted as I expected, it wasn’t heavy-handed, either. A thoroughly enjoyable read.

Science Fiction

Review: Zack and Zoey’s Alien Apocalypse by MJ Ware

Zack and Zoey's Alien Apocalypse book cover
Image from MJ Ware

Title: Zack and Zoey’s Alien Apocalypse

Author: MJ Ware

Genre: Science Fiction

Looking for yummy human tenders, Admiral Nact-bauk invades the local school. Zack and Zoey lead the counterattack armed with rulers, protractors, and dodge balls. They might have a chance, if Nact-bauk didn’t gulp down the only teacher brave enough to stand up to him. Even worse, he forces Zoey onboard the alien vessel for dinner — along with a bucket of honey-mustard sauce. Zack will do just about anything to save her. If Principal Blathers won’t help, Zack sees no choice but to ‘borrow’ the principal’s car. Chasing the alien saucers, he meets up with a wrinkly WWII hero who thinks he knows the alien’s weakness: electric toothbrushes. Wielding only umbrellas and battery-powered dental weapons, things look grim. Even if the pair manage to rescue Zoey, there’s the small matter of escaping.

So, what possessed me to pick this up? Still not quite sure about that. Maybe because it was free. Maybe an alien invasion story sounded good at the time. Maybe I wanted a light, fun read. But whatever the reason, I decided to read this.

Zack and Zoey’s Alien Apocalypse is one of those difficult books to review. It’s a middle grade book – the younger side of middle grade. There was some juvenile humor that I’m sure my 12-year-old brother would have loved, but just made me roll my eyes.

And there was absolutely nothing for character development. Don’t get me wrong, it fit with the story, but I knew nothing about Zack (who narrated). He was an upper-elementary-aged boy. Zoey I knew even less about, besides the fact that she and Zack were friends. I can’t even pretend to discuss them, because there was nothing to discuss.

The plot was very interesting – and a little too quick, I think. Aliens show up and eat people (somehow, MJ Ware managed to keep the tone light, even when people were dying). Evil teachers and principals try to feed the kids to the aliens so they don’t get eaten. The kids have to discover how to keep the aliens from eating them all. Which turns out kinda weird and kinda logical at the same time.

Let me get this straight: I enjoyed the read. It was a light, quick, simple diversion. Would I read it again? No. Would an upper-elementary kid like this more than I did? Almost certainly.

Fiction, Middle Grade, Science Fiction

Bot Wars

Bot Wars book cover
Image from J.V. Kade’s website

Title: Bot Wars (Bot Wars #1)

Author: J.V. Kade

Genre: Science Fiction

When robots became so human-like that they wanted equal rights, the government declared all robots terrorists and banned them from the United Districts. Then the Bot Wars began. Twelve-year-old Trout St. Croix isn’t trying to be a rebel or a fugitive – he just wants to find his dad, who went missing while fighting in the Bot Wars. But when a video he posts about his dad goes viral and his brother disappears, Trout begins to question the government. Nothing is as it seems – not the robots, the government he always trusted, or his own father – and now Trout is in danger of disappearing, too.

I’m still not quite sure what possessed me to pick this up. I was already drowning in a backlog of books, and it wasn’t like Bot Wars was high on my list of things to read. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of it until I found it on the library shelf.

But I picked it up, and I’m glad I did.

Trout wasn’t bad, as far as characters go. I didn’t mind following him around through the story. But I felt like there was  a slight disconnect – maybe because he’s a twelve-year-old boy and I’m a sixteen-year-old girl. I don’t think I liked him as much as, say, my twelve-year-old brother would.

Trout’s friend Vee, on the other hand, I really enjoyed. I liked her spunk and her willingness to break the rules, and I loved her hair (I know, weird fact, but it was really cool). She was a fun character.

One thing I have to mention is that strange as it may be, computer geek Dekker was my favorite character. He was in maybe five scenes the whole book, but his super-fun quirkiness made me wish he was in more of it.

I feel like anything I say about the plot is going to be a spoiler. Everything in the summary happens in about the first third of the book. Then it moves into conspiracies and rebellions and everything-the-government-said-was-a-lie kind of stuff. Plus, there’s a bunch of quirky robots. The whole plot was immensely exciting.

I loved the futuristic sci-fi world. The robots having personalities was about the only thing that seemed unrealistic. The way the government handled things, the economic problems, everything seemed like it could actually happen. And it made me want a robot.

Bot Wars was a fun middle grade sci-fi. I actually thought it was a standalone until I checked out J.V. Kade’s website. It wrapped up so well, I didn’t think there was going to be a sequel.

I loved Bot Wars. Between the plot, the sci-fi world, and the mix of fun characters, it was an enjoyable read all the way through. There’s a (currently untitled) second book coming out in March 2014, but I’m not sure if I want to read it. I think it might drag a good story on too long.