________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 7 . . . . November 26, 1999

cover Guardian of the Dark.

Bev Spencer.
Markham, ON: Scholastic Canada Ltd., 1993.
170 pp., pbk., $5.99.
ISBN 0-590-74583-2.

Grades 5 - 7 / Ages 10 - 12.
Review by Harriet Zaidman.

*** /4

Science fiction is a wonderful genre to hook kids on reading and lead them to great heights of learning and imagination. The blending of research and creativity is a difficult process. Good science fiction intrigues children and prompts higher level thinking about morality, value systems, social policy, political views - material a teacher and a parent can use as a basis for positive discussion.
     The scenario of a Utopia gone wrong is not uncommon in science fiction. Guardian of the Dark is set in Senedu, a utopia that is located in tunnels under the earth. The word "sky" is interpreted as a large cavern. Society is ruled by an omnipotent Guardian, whose son, Gen, is his designated heir. As a child, Gen is treated "royally" even by other kids, except Duff, and the situation gets worse as Gen dreads the looming coming-of-age ceremony that will begin his intense training period as Guardian-to-be. He is determined to exercise his childhood curiosity as much as possible before that date and sets out to search for whatever he can find in the tunnels. His explorations get him and Duff into trouble. They are punished for violating Senedu's strict, but unexplained, rules. But the discoveries Gen has made raise his concerns for the safety of his people, and he escapes. Accompanied by another boy and later joined by Duff and Gen's cousin, Gen finds that the future of civilization rests on the quartet's shoulders. With Gen's leadership, the danger of annihilation is overcome, but they return only to find that Gen's father has cast them out - the worst possible fate for those who live in a contained world. Gen's newly gained knowledge of life above the crust of the earth enables him to gather a group of adventurers who embark on the risky path of beginning a new civilization. They will build a new world, hopefully learning from the mistakes of the people who formerly inhabited earth and ruined their Garden of Eden. What Gen doesn't know is that his seemingly aloof and uncaring father has been steeling Gen (whose full name is revealed to be General) to take this step. Senedu had been a refuge from the nuclear disaster of previous generations, but its resources and size had been exhausted. The Guardian's fatherly love had been directed to getting Gen to reject life in Senedu.
     Bev Spencer's novel is engaging and offers sufficient intrigue to keep the reader curious. The secret of the Wizard and the Dragn, the proscribed air shafts and the unbending Rules keep Gen and the reader seeking the truth. The characters are young adolescents with whom the readers will identify.
     Guardian of the Dark is an interesting read and would work well in a literature circle where students can participate in exercises to predict what will happen next, discuss the issues of when to obey and when to violate laws of society, what kind of society is ideal, etc. It is a good introduction to further science fiction reading.


Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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ISSN 1201-9364