The Incredible Space Raiders from Space!
Written by Wesley King
Published by Simon and Schuster, February 2015
The youth-thrust-into-the-role-of-hero-in-a-time-of-peril genre is one chock full of self-serious, dystopian tomes. Author Wesley King throws his hat into this particular ring with his latest, The Incredible Space Raiders from Space!, but in doing so he makes some vital tweaks to the template and creates something worthwhile in a section of the bookstore that’s becoming increasingly less so.
The set up is somewhat familiar, at least on its face: Civilization is at risk, and the children are employed to save the world.
In this case, orphans –they won’t be missed– wake up to find themselves aboard a spaceship called The Flying Squirrel; they have no recollection of how they got there and they don’t know, initially, where they’re going or what they’re doing. A mistake has been made, however, and Jonah has a loving family back home who are sure to miss him. Or are they? Jonah is plunged into feelings of doubt; while the rest of the crew struggles to explain why he’s there and what makes him so special, he struggles with thoughts that his family gave him up willingly. Was he a bad kid? Maybe his family wasn’t as loving as he thought.
What really sets King’s book apart is his innate sense of humour and his attention to detail. Where most novels of this sort cast the children as matured beyond their years, the kids here are are children, and they act like children… Albeit, in many ways they act like children trying to act like adults. They crew is structured in a loosely militaristic way, and they are given shiny new titles –“Jonah the Now Incredible,” for instance, and “Willona the Awesome”– upon arrival; they have roles, and rules, a mythology and a lexicon, but all of it, no matter how seriously it is taken, is childish and not-quite-right: Their enemies are called the EETS (which stands for the Entirely Evil Things), they avoid a section of the ship called The Dark Zone, lest they run into the dreaded Screacher, eater of children, and they train to fight with “Bonkers,” which are, well… Pipes. Just pipes.
There’s a rule for film directors when shooting action sequences: The more context you give for the space in which the sequence takes place, the more successful the sequence. Essentially, this means that the audience will enjoy the fight scene better if they can see where the fight is happening and where the characters are in relation to their surroundings and each other. This rule carries over into the written word, and King is excellent at it. His action moments are well laid out and clear. They are highlights of the work.
The book lacks a touch of depth, maybe, and the resolutions in the final third are perhaps a little too tidy; our frustration with romances in middle grade and young adult fiction is a common issue in our reviews, and the inclusion of a romance (as tame as it is) here is completely unnecessary, especially considering that we’re dealing with a young boy who has just lost his entire family and found himself on a ship floating around in space.
Middle grade adventure is a hard sell, especially to adults, but The Incredible Space Raiders from Space! kept me rapt, smiling and turning pages. Well worth a look.
Kinderlit.ca requested and received a copy of The Incredible Space Raiders from Space! in exchange for an honest review. read about our review policy HERE.