A prank gone awry catapults us into the world of Dan Krokos’ The Planet Thieves. Sometime-prankster and full-time space cadet Mason Stark chooses just the wrong moment to try to humiliate his sister, as the spaceship they are traveling aboard is suddenly attacked by Tremists, a mysterious and vicious alien species that is humanity’s number-one enemy in this fast-paced novel for middle-grade readers and young adults.
Though he’s only thirteen and not yet officially a member of Earth Space Command, Mason is determined to do whatever he can to aide his fellow crewmen against the Tremist attack. He’s helped along by the other cadets, including good friend Merrin and reluctant ally Tom. Complicating matters for our young hero is the fact that his older sister, Lieutenant Commander Susan, is also on board and in a heap-load of trouble from the attacking aliens. Krokos captures the dynamic between good friends Merrin and Mason, as well as the more contentious relationship between Tom and Mason, with equal understanding and humor. These characters read like the teenagers they are, and it lends the whole story more of an air of believability. The real affection and respect between Susan and Mason is felt as well, and helps to solidify the idea that the two siblings are all that is left of their family.
Krokos fills the environment of the SS Egypt with marvels of space-age technology: subcutaneous com-units for every person aboard, magnetized flooring, portable “dataslate” computers, not to mention the weaponry: photon cannon hand-guns, EMP grenades, plus “gun-barrels the size of skyscrapers,” arming the Egypt itself all jam-packed into a twenty-story, half-a-mile long spaceship. This futuristic battleship is fully-realized and seriously cool. It has plenty to entice younger lovers of Star Wars, Star Trek, and other great classics of space-age adventure.
With a feel that at times brings to mind Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, but never manages to match that level of character and story depth, Krokos creates a believable science fiction world as seen through the eyes of an eager young boy. Mason’s sense of duty and obligation war with his desire to be in the thick of things, sometimes to his detriment. But when he and his fellow cadets are tasked with liberating the SS Egypt from the Tremist invaders, Mason has to grow up fast and learn to make some very difficult, very adult decisions. The revelations keep coming in this novel, with mystery after mystery unfolding before Mason’s eyes.
The Planet Thieves abounds in excitement and non-stop action from start to finish. Recommended as a fun introduction to science fiction for teenaged readers.
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