A Crack in the Sky, by Mark Peter Hughes

This is the first new-ish young adult fiction I've read in awhile, and there are parts of it I liked and parts I didn't. I'll start with the latter first. The book can get a little preachy. Okay, a lot preachy. The premise of the series (this is the first installment) is that humans have killed the planet. One company has taken over every single aspect of life and supervised the building of domes to protect people from the Outside. Everything is run by the CloudNet, an infrastructure/entertainment system designed to keep the populace happy, productive, and ignorant. The reality is that the world is ending, and the company, InfiniCorp, has decided to simply live life as well as it can since nothing can be done to save the planet. If you're thinking this sounds a little like WALL-E, well, it does. It read a lot like WALL-E, and I'd be shocked if the author didn't take his initial inspiration from that brilliant movie. The blurb on the back calls the book "completely original," when it most certainly is not that. I have no problem with inspiration and leapfrogging on top of others' great ideas. But then to turn around and say it was "completely original" does not sit very well with me.

That being said, the book is pretty well written and engaging enough to make me want to keep reading it. One of the main characters is a mongoose with a chip in her brain, and though her speaking voice is incredibly annoying (not even a devoted pet, if s/he were able to speak, would call its owner "darling" or "my dear"), her presence is intriguing. Eli, the protagonist, can be a bit annoying, but what 13 year old boy isn't? What Hughes does well are bad guys. Most of these characters are just nuanced enough to make them believable, and truly scary. Yes, there are one or two who are evil just for the sake of being evil, but many others actually believe what they are doing is right, and that makes for the best kind of bad guy.

I think in a genre that leans heavily towards very strong female protagonists and either super-spy or super-nerd male protagonists, it's good to have a realistic, strong boy be the hero of a series. I feel comfortable recommending this series to a boy who enjoyed, say The Golden Compass (though it isn't nearly that good) but wants a slightly more relatable main character.


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