In Review: The Silver Six

The Silver Six by A.J. Lieberman & Darren Rawlings

Published by Graphix/Scholastic, July 2013. Hardcover at $22.99 or paperback at $10.99, 189 pages

Intended for ages 8 – 12, grades 3 – 7

Note: I read an advanced copy so any aspect of the book could change before publication.

The cover: Our six heroes run while being pursued by a giant robot, whose talons are reaching for them, a rocket has been launched at them and its many lasers are powering up. An exciting cover showing our cast in action. Futuristic garb and the giant ‘bot give a good idea to readers what kind of story they’re in for. Design by Phil Falco, with the art by Darren Rawlings. I would’ve like to have seen the children a little bigger. Overall grade: A-

The premise: From the back cover: “When a group of orphans are thrown together under mysterious circumstances, Phoebe and her pal Oliver lead them in a daring escape from their orphanage to an uninhabited moon. But their idyllic paradise is shattered when the powerful corporate boss who ordered the deaths of their parents sends a relentless henchman to track them down. With nowhere left to turn and time running out, Phoebe and her friends decide there’s only one thing to do: Fight back!” Sounds like a lot of action with a bit of a mystery. Sounds good! Overall grade: A

The characters: Phoebe Hemingway is a strong protagonist who’s been living illegally for the last year. Her only friend is her smarty robot Max who’s been helping her fake her parents’ existence so she can continue to live in her apartment. Villainous Hayden Craven, CEO of Craven Industries, which is responsible for drilling for Hydro-2, an element 87% more efficient than oil but 372% harder to refine and produce, learns of a file sent to the girl’s residence before her parents died. He’s your typical Lex Luthor businessman villain, who relies on his henchman Sam Strick to get the girl and the file at any cost. Sam is the typical bossed around toadie, but you constantly get the impression that he’s holding back something around everyone, including his boss. He was a terrific character. At the orphanage we met the rest of the Silver Six: Hannah, Oliver, Patel, Rebecca, and Ian. Hannah is the first person to befriend Phoebe and works as a sounding board for the lead. Oliver is Phoebe’s rival for leadership and has some of the funniest moments of the book. He was the scene stealer when Max wasn’t around. Ian is the tech-nerd, complete with glasses. Picture a stereotype of this character and how he would act. Got it? There, you know exactly what he’ll do in any situation. No surprises from him. The remaining two characters, Patel and Rebecca, contribute nothing to the story in any way except to be warm bodies in the scene. They could have been eliminated and nothing would have been lost in the story. So, there’s an excellent protagonist, an average antagonist, but with a interesting employee, and three supporting characters that are good, while three do nothing. Overall grade: B-

The settings: This future world is one of the friendlier dystopias I’ve encountered of late for children’s books. The world is falling into decay due to Craven’s mining, people live in squalor and orphanages are workhouses (nothing new since the days of Dickens). But give writer Lieberman credit, the kids, especially Phoebe, think it can get better. The orphan moon they go to is the exact opposite of their home world: grass, mountains, streams, and floating rock bridges (there has to be something sci-fi-ish there, right?). It’s a paradise. It’s a go-to contrast for the story and it works, though it was unsurprising. Overall grade: B

The action: Strick’s pursuit of the children has some great action sequences, done very cinematically, and very believably. When the probe enters the picture the action intensifies. Some portions did feel a little forced, such as Pages 98 and 99 and what begins on Page 160. One was too quick and therefore ineffective, Pages 85 – 87. Still, an adult will pause at those moments more than a child would. Overall grade: B+

The conclusion: A nice ending that will have readers going, “But it can’t end like this!” as our heroes don’t get justice initially, and one person actually perishes. The team could reunite for future adventures, though there’s nothing specific to say they will. Overall grade: A+

The art: Since this is a graphic novel I should spend some time discussing the visuals. Darren Rawlings is really, really good with his characters; each has a consistent look to make them readily identifiable to any reader. His tech work is even more impressive. Max looks like he fell right out of an episode of Invader Zim, as does all the hardware. The probe is an amazing thing with all its gadgets and its ferocity with which it goes after the kids. The look of this book is terrific! Overall grade: A+

The final line: The story is your standard kids-stand-up-to-evil-businessman, but set in a science fiction environment. The visuals makes this an impressive debut. Overall grade: A-

 

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyers Guide for a few years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” He had to give that up to teach 8th graders English for 19 years, and only recently has been teaching 9th graders English. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars or Indiana Jones items online.

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