The third installment in John Ricks’ presumably middle grade science fiction adventure saga featuring 13-year old genius Freddy Anderson (after 2015’s Earth Ship Proctectress) is a fast-paced and fun, but ultimately flawed, read.
As the novel begins, Anderson is a prisoner of aliens who are contemplating conquering Earth and enslaving its populace. The plot is forwarded through the aliens’ probing of Anderson’s young mind and analyzing his memories for any valuable information. Through a series of recollections retrieved from Anderson’s brain, the aliens essentially relive the telepathic teenager’s near past—from Anderson’s inventions of a device that can cure humanity of all disease and a massive starship that can teleport anywhere, to his tumultuous relationship with teen crush Becky. Slowly, they reach a decision about whether they should destroy humankind or befriend us.
This novel has some obvious strengths. The light-hearted sense of humor throughout is perfect (“We would sometimes make designs in their fields, just to mess with them”), and the action literally never flags. Tonally, the storyline is spot-on for young readers: Instead of torturing Anderson for information, for example, the aliens tickle him.
But while the narrative is certainly fluid and focused, the overall reading experience is superficial and unsatisfying because of two major oversights: The author conspicuously neglects description throughout, leaving readers with two-dimensional character development and cardboard backdrops. The use of tension is all but ignored as well. The author rushes through sequence after sequence that should have been edge-of-your-seat scenes. (An entire war, for example, is over in one page.) These omissions result in an emotionally detached reading experience. Additionally, the complete lack of a conclusion will leave more than a few readers less than satisfied.
A fun but forgettable read, Colossus requires revision with an eye to developing the characters, settings and tension in order to reach a wide audience.
Also available as an ebook.