Will Robinson versus the Terminator in this science fiction, middle-grade series that follows a young boy’s struggle to eradicate a rather unique glitch that his science project unleashed into the techno universe.
Johnny Starrider’s plight begins when he teams up with his twin brother Jody, who’s a real pain in the Sunspots, to study a strange cosmic radiation barreling through the solar system. They already argue over everything: the top bunk, haircuts, and who pilots through the Aurora Borealis. Their experiment is no different.
What the boys end up capturing is Dark Energy. It moves galaxies. But can it move the human heart? The brothers suffer a spiteful sibling rivalry and it causes them to overlook a conspirator’s devious plot until too late. If Johnny and Jody can’t resolve their differences, their home, family, even mankind may cease to exist. For the brothers, however, "reconciliation" is a planet they have never visited.
Review: In full disclosure I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway.
For a large amount of this book I didn’t like any of the characters. Johnny is arrogant, self centered, uncaring, he misbehaves but is never punished, he is popular and liked by most of the other characters, but I didn’t like him.
John, the father of the twins is awful. He treats his boys completely differently; he loves Johnny, praises his achievements and doesn’t discipline him at all, even when his son behaves badly (such as stealing a spaceship and nearly killing himself). With Jody he doesn’t notice any of the good things he does, and punishes him severely for any mistakes, even for things beyond his control, he also never calls him ‘son’.
Jody was a dark character, and had negative feelings for his brother and father. These feelings are understandable since they both treat him so badly, I knew I should feel sorry for him, but for some reason I didn’t like him. When I got about halfway through the book I realized what it was, he only has these negative thoughts and feelings, and there is nothing more to him. There were a couple of nice moments with his mother, and if there were more of these then perhaps he would have been likeable.
While it can make for good reading having some characters to hate, having all the main characters hard to like made it difficult for me to enjoy this book.
There were some enjoyable or interesting moments and plot points, such as Jody’s interactions with Johnny’s girlfriend, and the interactions with the robot I/O.
Fortunately the characters do develop into being nicer people. This first occurs about half way through the book, but it doesn’t last for long and the boys go back to being mean to each other. Then towards the end of the book they both start being nicer to each other and I was finally invested in them.
There were also several clichés in what characters said, for example a teenager talking their girlfriend on the phone where they both say “You hang up first”, or another time when someone who is getting yelled at by a authority figure, gets so afraid they forget what their name is when asked. There were many of these unrealistic and cliché moments.
One other problem I had with the characters, and this one is just a minor one, was the author’s choice to name a father and son with almost identical names. There was several times, especially early on when this was confusing.
The pacing for the early part of the book was pretty slow, especially for a middle grade book. Other than the odd hint of a few things, there was not very much that felt like it was important to the long term story. Most of what was happening was almost everyday things rather than anything that was exciting or adventurous.
I thought it was a little tech heavy for a middle-grade book, and it felt more like a young-adult book with the amount of technological talk that went on in the book. I also felt that it talked about the technology but never really explained how things worked.
I had some problems with the writing style and editing. There were quite a number of times when there were conversations between three or more characters and it was unclear who was talking at any one time.
Also there would be times when the story would jump forward in time with little explanation of what happened. This made the story confusing and hard to follow.
The story itself was good, although it wasn’t particularly original. Once it got about two-thirds of the way through the book, when the characters started to be nicer and the pace picked up, it turned into an interesting and exciting story that I enjoyed.
Overall this was quite a good book. The story was interesting once it got going, although it did take quite a while for the pacing to pick up. The biggest problem I found was that the characters were unlikeable for the majority of the book.
Rating (3 Stars)