________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 3. . . .September 18, 2009


Attack of the Intergalactic Soul Hunters.

Timothy Carter.
Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2005.
203 pp., pbk., $9.50.
ISBN: 0-7387-0847-X.

Subject Headings:
Science fiction. Extraterrestrial beings-Fiction.
Reincarnation-Fiction. Psychics-Fiction.

Grades 5-7 / Ages 10-12.

Review by Andrea Galbraith.

** /4



Hestar tumbled through the void at the mercy of the rocks. A large chunk flew past him, and its gravity well flung him in a new direction. If anything hit him, no matter how small, he would be dead.

Just then, a shape approached him. Conrad thought it was another rock, but it was a face. An alien face, old and wise-looking, with green skin and long, white hair. Conrad recognized it; he’d seen it before somewhere, but he could not think of where. He hadn’t seen it in any of his previous dreams, but he knew the face just the same.

As it approached, the asteroid field disappeared. Conrad found himself in a soft-colored void, alone with the alien head.

“Hestar,” the face said. “At last I’ve found you.”

Conrad Viscous and Knowlton Cabbage endure daily bullying, not just from their classmates, but from teachers and a bus driver who turn a blind eye. Their home lives are even bleaker: Conrad lives with an apathetic mother, and Knowlton’s parents are seriously uptight and critical. It’s no wonder that the two friends escape into the world of the sci-fi TV show, Infinite Destiny. One day Conrad activates his soulblade –– a beam of energy extending from his hand –– by accident, and he realizes the vivid dreams he’s been having of alien warfare are more than random noise from his unconscious. Once he has used the soulblade, his presence becomes known to Cyscope who has been hunting for Conrad’s previous incarnation, Hestar, for years. Cyscope comes to Earth, possesses a human body, and begins to hunt for Conrad/Hestar in order to find out where he has hidden some intergalactic treasure. Conrad is whisked away from danger by a bounty hunter, Javix, but is determined to return to protect his friends. He fights hard but is troubled by the violence he must use, killing two possessed bodies, and seeing his mother’s body taken over by one of the Hunters fighting with Cyscope. At first, Hestar is in control of Conrad’s body as he does battle, but, as the story progresses, Conrad takes over and decides to act according to his moral code, stunning rather than killing his enemies. Conrad and Knowlton overcome Cyscope, and Conrad’s mentor, Pakfrida, arrives in a spaceship to spirit the two boys off Earth for further adventures.

     The garish cover and B-movie title of Attack of the Intergalactic Soul Hunters suggest a spoof, but this is straight-up science fiction. It is a lighthearted work with some dark elements, a bit of moral questioning, and a semblance of an alternate world. The emphasis is on pursuit and battle, with the reasons for the conflict taking a distant second place. The book is also funny, especially Knowlton’s and Conrad’s glib dialogue. However, the characters’ wisecracks sometimes detract from their emotional depth. It is stretching credibility that any 10-year-old boy, no matter how many balled-up bits of paper and overripe fruit have been hurled at him in school, would be able to crack jokes when an alien villain is threatening his life. Similarly, the bleak and even abusive family situations that the boys face is not explored meaningfully.

     Some care is taken to have Conrad reflect on the violence into which he is thrown and to show that he is disturbed by it. Loyalty is also a key part of his moral code. Both boys are likable, if rather flat and interchangeable. All other characters are stock figures, with the exception of Lysta, the teenage psychic they befriend during the course of the story.

     The story is set in Toronto, and several place names and streets are mentioned to establish this fact. At times, though, the setting seems confused. The boys and their classmates ride a bus to a school that is over an hour away by foot. This seems unusual in a large city. The thin characters are supported by an event-filled, battle-driven plot with vivid descriptions. The violence isn’t glossed over, but neither is it graphic or overly frightening for readers in the target age range. Some of the action and imagery is borrowed from film and television, but the pace and readable prose ensure that the story flows well. Certain plot points are held back until late in the book, such as the reason for Cyscope’s pursuit of Conrad, and the real relationship between Pakfrida and Conrad. Knowlton’s previous incarnation is not revealed at all, leaving it open to be explored in the promised sequel.

Recommended with reservations.

Andrea Galbraith is a writer, librarian and parent based in Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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