‘WE’ by John Dickinson

Now, I have to admit, I didn’t like this book at all. I just didn’t like it for reasons I’m about to tell you. Honestly, I couldn’t finish it, I couldn’t seem to get a hold on it. It just didn’t work for me.

First of all, I didn’t like it because it’s really complicated and I couldn’t understand what was going on. At the start of the book, it was far to brief in setting out what was happening – ‘the context’. Usually I can handle this and I might be able to understand things as I get into the story, but here you feel as though you are missing part of the book. Anyhow, just so I don’t sound dumb, I am happy to say I understood enough of what was going on to keep turning the pages, but it was all still a bit of a blur.

Second of all, well actually, I don’t really have a second point. Refer again to the first point and multiply it by unnecessary complications set out in a book that is to brief to explain any of it.

This is a full on Sci-Fi book, there is nothing else, just Sci-Fi and I mean it. But I guess there could be more, since I never actually finished the book (I got bored and bewildered), but I’m going to go with science fiction. This is just my opinion, so please don’t kill me if you did actually like this book.

The book is set in the future where there is a lot of cool stuff, but, I think, some of this stuff somehow depletes the quality of life. One of these things is called the ‘World Ear’. It is implanted onto the back of your ear; think it more or less connects your brain to the rest of the world via the Internet. The stuff you want to know just appears in your vision. You can use it to communicate with other people too; like text messaging, but faster: because you just think what you want to say and it sends and it will appear in their vision. But then of course, you never learn to talk.

The story is about a man named Paul Munro who has been picked for an incredibly special job on the moon of a planet in the furthest reaches of the solar system (to be honest I don’t have a proper idea where which is confusing, but it’s probably a moon of either Pluto or Neptune). Paul had to get his World Ear removed as part of the job, so he can’t talk and he also thinks like a young child.

To get him to where he has to go, the Government puts him into a tiny space shuttle. For the duration of the journey, he’s put into a sort of incredibly deep sleep (because wouldn’t you be bored in a tiny space shuttle for 8 years on your own?). The space launch happens and this part is a bit confusing, he seems to be put into the spaceship thing (trust me it’s weird) and the ship sort of flies up to the outer atmosphere via like a metal like rope which it uses to get up there. And then, when up there, there seems to be  a spaceport from where he gets launched to wherever.

While this is happening, Paul Munro unknowingly became famous because this is a big mission and there is huge excitement. Paul won’t be at this planet’s base on his own; there are already three people there from a previous mission. There were four, but one of them committed suicide because he couldn’t deal with it all. This created an uproar. Paul is the replacement. Paul is launched from the spaceport and the whole world holds its breath with excitement. But, after a few weeks, maybe months, the excitement is dying down; after two years, most people are starting to forget about it all. Only the team of people keeping everything on the mission in order remains focused on Paul’s mission.

BTW, yes, I did say spaceport, a lot of space missions seem to be going on in this book. I’m pretty sure it says there are over 200 people on mars and about 15 on Jupiter. I actually don’t know because while I have the book here beside me, I just can’t find anything in it and I would say other missions would also be going on. read the book and you’ll know what I mean.

I wouldn’t  really recommend this book. Try it if you want. You might like it, so don’t let my opinion mess up yours. Sorry I didn’t read the whole book, it just didn’t catch on with me, so please don’t bite my head off. I can also see that a lot of thought was put into it and I sort of feel bad for writing anything bad about the book.

And I also apologise for the long wait for this or whatever review that was coming. It’s been a busy summer!

Review by 12 year old Finn Buck.

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‘Interworld’ by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves

This isn’t a bad book, but it could be better. I quite liked parts of it. I don’t think I’ll be able to write that much about it because there’s not much to it. So why did I pick it up? Because the book stands out, with its cool and outlandish name and great cover design. I picked this up off a shelf in my library because the spine of the book looked really cool, so I decided to read the blurb. It sounded pretty good so I gave it a try.

This book had huge potential. My problem with it is that in places there doesn’t seem enough book in the book, in others there’s too much. At some points, there just doesn’t seem to be enough detail to explain the story – to tell you what’s going on. I’d have liked more storyline and more detail on the characters. You keep thinking a bit is getting good and then it trails off. It’s a bit frustrating.

The story is about Joey Harker who lives a pretty average life; nothing is unusual in his life except for his crazy teacher – Mr Dimas. He gives Joey and his class weird assignments. For one of these weird assignments, as a test, the class is brought to a random place in their city. They go in groups of three. They have to try to get back to their school.

Joey, being somebody who can get lost in his own house (well, when his family built an extension, he didn’t recognise where he was!), did not fill his two team-mates with confidence. Turns out he knew where he was, but they laughed at him and didn’t take him seriously. They set off and Joey goes with them, though he knows it’s the wrong way. Havin gone the wrong way, they quickly get lost. Joey tells them he’ll scout ahead. He finds himself walking through a park as he looks for the right way. Then a sort of foggy mist descends around him. Joey walks through the mist and finds himself on the other side where he sees something incredible! (only kidding, it’s not that great, it’s a good surprise though). Read it to see what you think of the surprise.

Overall, this was a pretty average book which didn’t bore me, but didn’t keep me turning the pages either. I’ve written a fair bit about it in this review, but read it and see for yourself. This is a book for those who like sci-fi and action, maybe even fantasy. It’s a little bit of all these genres.

Thanks for reading this, Finn Buck, 12.

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‘Warcross’ by Marie Lu

This is an exceptional book. I really liked it. The writing is great. There is real balance in the actual storyline – I mean there’s no boring bits, only what’s needed to keep things ticking along. This is one of those books where you pick it of the shelf of wherever and think ‘this might not be a great book’ or you just think nothing of it and you read it and you love it. In ways, it’s a bit like Ready Player One, particularly because of the virtual reality part of it all and other things. But, of course, you have other big differences.

The book’s characters are mostly well created and show huge personalities with likes, dislikes and opinions. I think this is where the book could be improved: a small number of characters are pretty boring. I know why they are there, but their parts could have been better.

I’d love to read a sequel. I think one is coming, supposedly called ‘Wildcard’: I can’t wait because this first book was totally unpredictable and threw your unsuspecting mind right round corners and through invisible tunnels. I sometimes try to predict what might happen next and this was just utterly impossible.

It’s set in the future where a 13 year old boy called Hideo Tanaka has invented a world/game called Warcross. To play, you only need a certain pair of virtual reality glasses made by Tanaka. It has become the biggest thing/trend ever and made Hideo a billionaire. The book is set a few years after this. The story follows an 18 year old girl called Emika Chen who is a hunter (person who is payed money by the police to find and basically capture people who bet on Warcross because its illegal).

Emika is poor, the book makes this very clear! There is no denying it. She rents an apartment with her roommate. some time later, they are about to be evicted due to not paying the landlord rent. She starts to get desperate and hacks into the opening ceremony for the Warcross championships (where different teams battle it out to win against each other while you watch via Warcross). She wants to steal something that would be worth a lot of money, but she accidentaly glitches her avatar into the match and everybody can see her. The rest of the book is about what happens when she enters the game.

I highly recommend this book if you like mystery and science fiction. Well, you might be wondering how does mystery come into this! If you really want to know, then read the book 🙂 I promise this is a really great book. I think Marie Lu has created something worth reading; that’s just my opinion.

Review by Finn Buck Aged 12

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‘Insignia’ by S. J. Kincaid

This is an explosion of a book. It’s full of unlimited possibilities and imagination. I found it a bit mindboggling at times; this didn’t stop me piling through the pages of what is a beautifully written read. I think Kincaid had fun writing this book – the characters are all full of attitude and have strong personalities. It has a unique storyline, with what I am going to call bad guys and traitors. It takes the characters to places you’d never expect them to go and has a whole lot of twists. It’s a funny story with happy and mischievous bits at times. It’s both a sci-fi and an action book (there’s probably an actual category of books like this one!).

It is set years from now, where World War 3 is being fought between the Indo-Americans (America and India) and the Russo-Chinese (Russia and China) in space using spaceships controlled by army trained teenagers using Virtual Reality and a computer called a ‘neural processor’ (this is inserted into their brains).

The teenagers are all incredibly talented video gamers from all over America and India. Why do they use teenagers? Because they are the only age group who can handle it; anybody else will go mad or die. But the war is more or less a game for territory in space and money for the big companies and corporations. And, in America, the teenagers train and fight at the Pentagonal Spire which is a tower that has been built at the Pentagon.

The story is about 14 year old Tom Raines (he’s a bit naughty!) who loves gaming and VR and is incredibly good at it. He has a homeless gambling addict of a dad and goes to school in VR. But one day his world is changed when he is spotted by the U.S military and is offered a place at the training facility to become one of the fighters. He is overwhelmed with joy and wants to go so much but his dad does not really like the idea and goes on about how you’ll never be repaid or honoured. But Tom goes none the less. He makes friends and enemies as soon as he arrives but needless to say anyone can be a traitor and even people you think you know well.

I would highly recommend this if you like sci-fi and action books. I loved this book and if you read it I hope you do too. I think there is a sequel to this book and if there is I want to read it so bad! Another thing in the book it says Albert Einstein once said ‘ I know not what World War 3 will be fought with but World War 4 will be fought with sticks and stones’ and of course this isn’t happening.

Review by 12 year old Finn Buck.

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‘Hover Car Racer’ by Matthew Reilly

I’ve read this book five times. I’d read it again (it’s a quick read). It’s up there on my list of all time favourites. The book has everything – twists, turns, fantastic characters and a fast-paced, addictive, storyline. What’s funny is how this sci-fi book doesn’t stand out in bookshops and libraries (I lend books from two different libraries). I just picked it up off the shelf one day, read it and found it’s one hell of a read. It also has that funny twinge of comedy and it actually made me laugh at random times.

At the start of the book it says it’s set: “A few years from now”. I wonder, as the book was written in 2004, why don’t we have hover technology yet?

The book is about, 14-year-old, Jason Chaser who has a talent for hover car racing (hardly a surprise given the book’s title!). Jason dreams of becoming a pro racer. His younger brother (he’s 12) is AKA ‘The Bug’ and he’s the hover car’s navigator. He helps Jason to make plans. He’s good at it because he’s clever (he can tell you what 654 x 357 is in 2 seconds!).

Their talent as racers is spotted at a race by a teacher from the International Race School in Tasmania (the school actually owns Tasmania, so they have huge race courses for the hover cars). The teacher offers them a place at the school. This gives Jason a chance to become a pro racer.

When he gets to the school, Jason makes friends with Ariel Piper who is the first ever girl to enter the race school.

It becomes obvious quickly that someone is intent on stopping him and Ariel from winning anything or becoming something big. It’s a story you can read with little effort; you just go with the flow. I recommend this book to anyone who likes fast-paced sci-fi thrillers (I’d say that’s most kids!). I’d say kids of any age could read it. The only hard bit for younger reads is that there are lots of characters and they can be hard to keep up with. I liked this, but some kids might get confused by this.

Review by Finn Buck aged 12.

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‘TimeRiders’ by Alex Scarrow

This as an alright book with a good enough idea. The story is just a bit all over the place and parts of it get boring. It tells you about history, what the future could be and what we might not know. It can get a bit weird at times.   It shows what humanity could make of itself and become. I found parts of this book full of interesting ideas; other bits could have been left out. I recommend it to older readers because of the violent and gory parts (if it was a film it might be over 18s!).

The basics of the storyline (and it’s messed up and hard to explain) are that in 2044 a time machine has been invented. It’s not used now. It’s banned and time travel is illegal because of catastrophic effects to the future it causes. It has three main characters. A teenage Liam O’Connor from 1912, Maddy Carter from 2010 and Sal Vikram from 2026. Moments before their deaths, they are all saved by a man called Foster. They have all been brought to 2001, to a small office, a place underneath an archway of the Williamsburg Bridge in New York City. It’s called the Agency. The Agency stops people from destroying the world with time travel. It tries to maintain time lines.

The Agency is in a two day ‘time bubble’ which keeps repeating on the 10th and 11th of September. The Agency also works with things called support units which are robots who are incredibly human-like. The original robot is called Bob and they use him all the time.

They are all assigned certain roles by Foster. Liam is the field agent who goes with Bob through time, Maddy is the team leader and Sal is the observer who notices shifts in time (changes in time). For a training exercise, Foster takes Liam and Bob into the past to change something and the girls, Maddy and Sal, have to figure out what it was. The Boys go back to 22nd of November 1963 in Dallas, Texas, where they stop Lee Harvey Oswald from killing John F. Kennedy. The girls figure out what it was that was changed. They tell the boys when they come back and then the boys go back again to restore the time.

Not long after, the time line is altered by a Dr Paul Krammer and a group of men lead by Karl Hass. They have travelled from 2066 to Germany on April 15th 1941. They did it using the first time machine made by a guy called Roald Waldstein. They launch an attack on Hitler’s base. Once inside, they strike a deal with Hitler and help him win the war using knowledge and technology from the future. When the war is over, Krammer takes over from Hitler.

In 2001, Sal notices the time shift and quickly tells the team. Bob and Liam are sent back  to the exact time the Americans surrendered to the German forces, After gathering information, they manage to miss their two time windows to get back. Liam gets transported to a prison camp and Bob decides (instead of going back home with the information) to save him.

The book doesn’t stay with the German storyline. It seeks jumping around. This gets a bit annoying and hard to understand. Like, also in 2001, another time shift happens where New York is turned into a wasteland with little mutant cannibal creatures who roam around in huge packs. This seems to make no sense when you are reading the book.

At this point, the rest of the team are trying to get Liam and Bib back but their time travel generator run out of diesel and they need to get more. They obviously get more. Meanwhile, back in 1941 Germany, Bob has started raiding prison camps to find Liam. Prisoners have joined with him, indirectly starting a small resistance. After six whole months (time in the past isn’t the same as the present), Bob finds Liam and frees him.

This couldn’t happen quick enough, as Krammer has gone insane and built a bomb connected to the time machine he used to get there. It has the power to end humanity. He detonates it a week after its built (Liam and Bob have gotten back to 2001 by now). How are they going to save the world? Liam remembers writing in a guest book when he visited the national history museum while in New York and comes up with the idea of putting a message in it for the team to read in 2001. So he sneaks in with Bob and sets up a bunch of hidden clues to get to the message he’s written in the book.

In 2001, Foster coincidentally (yes, it gets a bit far-fetched, but this is a book about time travel!) remembers the guest book as well and finds the message which has the coordinates for a time window. On the way back, they walk into a trap set by the mutant creatures and Sal is taken and presumably killed, but then Foster assures Maddy that she’ll come back if they restore the time. When they get back, they start charging up the generator for a time window for the set coordinates, but unfortunately the mutant creatures break into the office through weak points.

Luckily (yes, again!), Bob and Liam turn up just in time to save Foster and Maddy. They inform Foster of what happened in the past and they are sent back to the time where Krammer got into Germany and they stop him – they do this pretty violently.

Back in 2001, when the timeline has been restored, Sal appears back with no memory of what happened and Foster bids them farewell because he is dying and he just walks out of the time bubble. There are lots of bits like this which aren’t really explained.

Overall, this is an exciting book with an ok storyline but it gets boring at times. It is trying to fit too much in. It’s overly complicated and some bits are coincidental to the point of being silly. This could have been a better book.

Review by 12 year old Finn Buck.

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‘I am Number Four’ by Pittacus Lore

This is a fascinating book. I loved it; it’s super good. It pulls you in – by the end you’re screaming for more, you don’t want the book to end. Sadly, it had to. I could have read another 100 pages at least. The imagination and thought put into it is clear as soon as you open the book. It is all incredible. The story flows through the pages and you flow with it. Pittacus Lore (must be a pen name!) has turned a simple idea into a roaring adventure.

On the downside, it was hard to fully follow the story at some points (though you will really want to) and you, like me,  may find yourself skipping on from more boring parts to more interesting parts.

It is about an Alien boy called ‘Four’ who is from the planet Lorien. Lorien was once beautiful mostly because the inhabitants did away with pollutants, weapons and anything harmful to the environment. The people of Lorien evolved and most managed to get powers called legacies, but some didn’t. Those with the powers are the Garde and those without are the Cedan species.

The story takes place 11 years after Lorien has been attacked by another alien race called the Mogadorians. They who were in need of resources because of their dying planet and they massacred almost every Lorien on the planet; they left just eighteen alive: nine young from the Garde and nine from the Cedan – the Cedan mind the Garde.

Their planet has been made a wasteland, so the survivors have moved to Earth. Four is one of them. The nine can only be killed in numerical order and 1,2 and 3 are already dead: Four is next.

He is starting to gain his legacies and to settle into the new town where he moved to with his Cepan, Henri. His new identity is John Smith. He was nearly found by the Mogadorians once and it is clear he can’t hide from the Mogadorians for long, as they are now following that lead.

Then, one day, after school ends (yes, he is in school on Earth), the Mogadorians attack. Luckily, a girl, one of the 9, called ‘Six’ appears to help (and by appears I mean appears: she has the power to go invisible). John must make it out of the school alive because he wants the Lorien race to go on and not to die. Read the book to find out what happens next!

There’s lots more in this book. I don’t want to give too much away. I’ll say one more thing. I like the bit in the book where  it turns out his dog can shapeshift and is from Lorien as well.  This is cool.

I would highly recommend this book to over 12s if you like sci-fi and alien stuff. Even with a few boring bits, this is one of my favourite books: honestly, its story is great.

Review by 12 year old Finn Buck

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‘The Martian’ by Andy Wier

Out of all the books I’ve ever read, this one has to be my favourite: really. It’s about Mark Watney, an astronaut botanist, who is stranded on Mars by himself, as his crew left to return to Earth because thought he died. The first sentence of the book has some bad words;  Mark has found out he has been stranded on Mars and isn’t happy! He does “smart ” things to survive, like burning rocket fuel and blowing stuff up. Lots of stuff.

I’ve read the book six times and still can’t stop reading it. The humour is fantastic; it never gets old. It goes from something serious to something random or to a great moment – then it blows up (yay!). If you are thinking of reading the book or watch the movie, I highly recommend reading the book first; it explains unexplained things in the movie. The book says what the NASA name is for; it then says what it actually is.  I also think the book is funnier than the movie.

Even though the book was written in 2011, it seems too futuristic to have been imagined then. Seriously, there is stuff in the book like MAVs (Mars Ascent Vehicle) and RTGs (Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator) and EVAs (Extra Vehicular Activity): way to complicated for 2011. Definitions for MAV, RTG and EVA are not in the book, so I had to guess their meanings.

Overall, Andy Weir has made the best book I have ever read.

Review by Deasun Byrne aged 12 (my first review for this site).

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‘Railhead’ by Philip Reeve

This is an awesome book. It shows sci-fi in a way I’ve not read before. It’s the same with Reeve’s other books. They make you think of other worlds: it’s a bit epic. Railhead is well written; it jumps off the pages in places! I couldn’t stop reading it. For me, it ended very mysteriously and is obviously meant to be part of a series of books. I can’t wait to read the next book.

The book is based in the distant future where mankind has left earth and travelled far and wide through space. Humans now live on many planets. This space travel wasn’t done with spaceships or rockets but with trains that have feelings! (the books made me think – a lot …!). The universe is now the great network of gateways (K-gates) through space – the trains cross these gates. There are over a 1000 of these gates meaning the trains can go everywhere.

The network of gates is watched over by the guardians who are incredibly smart Artificial Intelligence (AI) deities but is sort of ruled by the royal Noon family. The book’s name ‘Railhead’ comes from what they call someone who loves train journeys! Reeve has thought of great names for everything in the book – I can’t list everything here; I can just tell you it’s all easy to follow.

We jump into the book with Zen Starling, a teen thief who doesn’t want to be in poverty but can’t do anything about it. He is a railhead. He lives with his tough, hardworking, sister and his disabled mother. One day a meteorite (an android) called Nova hires him for a job because he looks exactly like one of the Noon family – a boy called Tallis Noon. Zen meets his hirer, a man called Raven. The job Raven wants done is to steal a mysterious box called the Pytis which is in the Noon family’s train. What Zen doesn’t know is that this will uncover many secrets about his past, Raven, the guardians and much more (the universe!).

This is a truly thrilling book. It makes you think about what’s beyond Earth. I’m not going to tell you anything else about the storyline – read the rest to find out what happens.

I recommend this book to anyone – kid or adult – who likes sci-fi and adventure books. There is something new here. It’s a book not like other books. There is so much detail in this book but it’s still funny! It’s also a big adventure – I could hardly keep up with the speed of the story.

Review by Finn Buck aged 12.

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‘Ready Player One’ by Ernest Cline

This is one of my all time favourite books. I think Ernest Cline has done incredible work in this novel. The book makes you want to sit down on a couch and just read the whole thing in one go. The book shows what could happen in the future because it is set in the year 2045. I recommend it to anyone over 12 who likes Sci-Fi. Ernest Cline has written it in such a way as to make you believe this could be a true story. It sets out a future where pollution and climate change have taken over the world and everything is overcrowded. Wade Watts is 17 years old (nearly 18). He lives in a mobile home stack (a stack of mobile homes) with his aunt, her boyfriend and two different families. Wade goes to school in the Oasis, a vast virtual world where almost anything is possible and most of humanity spends their days. When the creator of this virtual world died 5 years earlier, he left behind a trail of clues and challenges in the Oasis for someone to find an Easter egg. Whoever wins inherits his giant 240 billion dollar fortune. When Wade cracks the first clue 5 years later and surpasses the first challenge, it turns out he is in the lead. A company called IOI (innovative online industries) will kill to take that lead and they’ve already done a bit of that. The prize will be incredibly hard to get to and Wade will need to team up with a band of friends to win; there will be casualties in real life too: can they do it? I don’t want to spoil the rest, so you’re going to have to read the book. There’s a lot of detail to the plot, so get reading! I think the book is being made into a film. I hope so.

Review by 12 year old Finn Buck

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