While I was cataloging this for my library, I became intrigued by the girl on the lower right corner of the cover. Reviews told me that her name was Mina, and that she was an android who'd basically raised Parker, the boy on the lower left. That sounded pretty cool, and the cover practically screamed “fast-paced action,” so I decided to give it a shot. Unfortunately, it didn't work as well for me as I'd hoped. Mina and Parker's relationship was entirely the wrong reason to read this, since they didn't actually have much of one.
Parker finds and rescues an unconscious, wounded boy outside his home. That boy turns out to be Chase, the book's primary protagonist. Chase can't remember his own identity (they got his name from a chip in his head), how he got there, or why he was wounded. He doesn't even know basic things that just about anyone should know, or why he said “Guide the star” when Parker first found him.
Chase desperately wants to find out more about himself, but Mina, Parker's android bodyguard, seems determined to keep him locked up. Parker breaks Chase out, but, to Chase's frustration, he only does it so the two of them can do some shopping and sight-seeing. Things quickly go very, very wrong, and the two boys find themselves on the run and in grave danger. The only safe place left may be with Asa, Parker's guardian, but first they need to find Mina and avoid slavers and Fleet soldiers.
I like fast-paced fiction, but dang this book was busy. I wanted everything to stop for just a few minutes, so I could get my bearings. Instead, I got one action scene after another. I hated that the book was so closely focused on Chase's experiences and knowledge, because he knew nothing and didn't get any more of a chance to sit and find stuff out than I did. I found myself wishing that Parker and Mina had been the book's main characters, even though Parker was kind of a jerk and too inclined to take risks.
Chase was too far in the other direction – if he couldn't see how an action would directly relate to finding out more about his past, he preferred not to do it. For example, Parker and Chase would never have even left the planet if Chase had had a say in the matter, because Chase couldn't see how anything off-planet might have had something to do with him ending up unconscious outside Parker's home. He actually demanded to go back to Parker's place, where the only option would have been to basically remain a prisoner. I wanted to shout at him to stop sulking and take whatever information-gathering opportunities he could get.
While the action scenes did the job, as far as keeping all the characters on the move and doing something, I never felt like I had an emotional connection to any of the characters. I probably felt the most for Parker and Mina, but that was primarily because I'd started reading the book for them. And anyway, in the end even they turned out to be incredibly disappointing. Mina had essentially raised Parker, and yet, despite this, they demonstrated no real attachment to each other. Sure, Mina rushed to save Parker every time she was physically able to, but Parker wasn't lying when he said she only protected him because of her programming. What struck me is that Parker didn't seem all that hurt by this. He and Mina might as well have been two strangers who formed a temporary alliance, rather than the boy and his bodyguard/surrogate mother (or older sister) that I'd hoped for.
So much about this book was just “meh.” There were technological terms and aliens all over the place, but it all felt like a bunch of sci-fi hand-waving. The meaning of “Guide the star” was an absolute groaner, and I don't understand how Lilli could have done what she did while unconscious and heavily sedated.
The ending left a lot unresolved. The next book in the series is supposed to come out at the end of this month. I haven't yet decided if I want to read it. On the one hand, I'm afraid that it'll just be more breakneck nothing. On the other hand, now that Chase has finally learned a little more, maybe another book starring him wouldn't be quite so bad. Plus, there's still a chance that I might get some of the human-android familial relationship I'd been hoping for. (Or maybe I'm just a sucker. ::sigh::)
Read-alikes and Watch-likes:
- Guardians of the Galaxy (live action movie) - It's rated PG-13. If I remember correctly, the violence in this movie isn't any worse than what you'd find in The Lost Planet, although there are some slightly sexual moments. Still, it might be a good match for those who liked the high energy of The Lost Planet and the mismatched group that suddenly finds themselves needing to work together.
- Pandemonium (graphic novel) written by Chris Wooding, illustrated by Cassandra Diaz - Another story with a teen protagonist who's in over his head. There's political unrest, but also a lot of humor. I've written about this graphic novel.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender (non-Japanese animated TV series) - Those looking for another action-filled series starring a young boy and some friends may want to give this a try. Aang isn't quite as adrift as Chase, but his situation is still serious - he wakes up a hundred years after the total destruction of his people. I've written about the entire series, plus a few of the graphic novels.
- The Planet Thieves (book) by Dan Krokos - Another middle grade science fiction book starring a boy. I haven't read it myself, but reviews make it sound action-filled and fun, although a bit boy-heavy (although it's not like The Lost Planet was much better in that regard). Like The Lost Planet, it's the first in a series.