John Greene, Jr.’s middle grade science fiction adventure involves a wayward boy who finds purpose as the savior of an alien race.
The story begins with 13-year-old Jack trying to run away from his uncle’s home. Although his first attempt is foiled and Jack is soon sent to stay with his grandparents, he again sneaks out, this time to watch a meteor shower with a scientist he met in town, launching a bigger adventure than he could have imagined.
As a meteorite crashes to Earth, Jack and the scientist, Billingsly, rush to investigate and find themselves sliding into an underground cavern full of hairy creatures that call themselves Bennots. These pacifistic refugees from another planet fled oppression from a species called the Malzoyans, eventually arriving on Earth, where they created an underground colony.
Fearful of discovery, the Bennots decide to adopt Jack into a local Bennot family, but he’s hardly begun yet another escape attempt—this time with a lost human girl named Jen—when he learns that the Malzoyans have sent a force to attack the Bennots. The colony’s only real defense is an army of cybernetic soldiers, called Gireens, each a replica of a different human soldier from Earth’s history. Jack, reunited with Billingsly in the defensive control center, decides to stay and help while Jen assists with the evacuation.
The story unfolds at a steady pace, with the battles assuming the feel of a video game as warriors “blast” and “vaporize” each other. Unfortunately, the characterizations are largely shallow. For example, Jen has little purpose other than to educate, support, and ultimately “fall for” Jack. Also, the comedy is decidedly slapstick (The leaders of the Bennots make a game of sorts of tripping one another, etc.), which won’t appeal to some.
Ultimately, the story will most please middle graders with an interest in battles or video gaming as they follow Jack’s transformation into a hero amongst the comically inept aliens.