June 18, 2015
(+++) SAVING THE WORLD, AGAIN AND AGAIN
Galaxy’s Most Wanted #1. By John Kloepfer. Illustrated by Nick Edwards. Harper. $6.99.
Galaxy’s Most Wanted #2: Into the Dorkness. By John Kloepfer. Illustrated by Nick Edwards. Harper. $12.99.
Another day, another world-threatened-by-aliens situation. So it goes at Northwest Horizons Science Camp, where Kevin Brewer, Warner Reed, TJ Boyd and Tara Swift encounter and must cope with various reptilian and/or four-eyed and/or fuzzy and/or tentacled and/or blobbish beings and keep Earth safe for Earthlings. Hence the naming of this redoubtable quartet as the Extraordinary Terrestrials (ETs – get it?). And hence the plot of John Kloepfer’s Galaxy’s Most Wanted series for ages 8-12, whose first entry appeared last year and is now available in paperback, and whose second hardcover offering is brand-new. That is, the book is new, but the plot, like that of the first entry, is an old one. Galaxy’s Most Wanted starts as a standard preteen group of not-very-distinguished and not-very-distinguishable friends makes contact with actual alien life and gets to meet an actual alien named Mim, who is cute and purple and fuzzy and four-eyed (literally four-eyed; this has nothing to do with wearing eyeglasses). But Mim tells the kids he is in trouble because of some galactic baddies who are after him, so the Earth kids have to hide him (they have him put on a hoodie) and help him. Soon enough, a pursuer shows up, yelling “‘Gluck-gluck-Mim-yim-yarkle’” and being as scary as only a giant extraterrestrial insect can be. Mim explains that the “space poachers” are after his entire species, “hunting us down and killing us for our fur so they can make coats out of us. It can get really cold in outer space.” So now the kids really need to help Mim, and they do a pretty darned good job of it, too, until they begin suspecting that maybe Mim is not telling them the whole truth, as in maybe not even 1% of it – and soon there are issues involving positron force fields, a “half-cyborg ET tracker,” a holographic rap sheet, a giant spiderish thing named Poobah, and all sorts of other nonsensical goodies that will undoubtedly delight preteen readers who are tired of earthbound zombies (like the ones in Kloepfer’s Zombie Chasers series) and looking for alternative amusements. This first book is neatly summed up at the start of the second: “Over the course of a few days, they had summoned the galaxy’s most wanted alien, a purple fuzzy creature named Mim with an appetite for destruction, fought off a giant arachnopod – a humongous half octopus, half tarantula – and saved the world from annihilation.”
But life can’t be that easy (well, all that world-saving seems easy) in a series like this. So, having set up the basic premise of Galaxy’s Most Wanted in the first book, Kloepfer – abetted by Nick Edwards’ illustrations, which do little to add to the action but certainly nothing to detract from it – brings the kids up against different alien bad guys in Into the Dorkness. This time Mim’s associates show up, set off a freeze-ray bomb, and learn about the heroic foursome because of tattletale “Alexander Russ, Kevin’s longtime science camp nemesis,” who is a “nerd bully.” Then the Extraordinary Terrestrials, accompanied by alien space cop Klyk (who looks like a toy and for a while pretends to be one), get together with a soccer-camp girl named Marcy – who happens to be a big fan of Max Greyson comics, which happen to contain some important clues to what is going on all around the intrepid preteens. Soon there are encounters with a brainwashed camp counselor and a swarm of robotic wasps that inject nanotech-based mind-control serum into their victims. And in case that is not enough drama and utter ridiculousness, the wasps inject the serum into “the entire all-girls soccer camp,” after which all the girls resemble the zombies in Kloepfer’s other current series, just to be sure kids get enough of a dose of Type A so they will also enjoy Type B (or, in the case of zombies, Type AB – or is that vampires?). There are occasional funny lines here: “You don’t seriously think humans invented Google, do you?” But by and large, both the action and the writing are quite straightforward and very much in line with the easy-to-follow, easy-to-read formula of series like this, in which the characters are virtually identical and the plots are packed with just enough fun to keep preteens reading. Into the Dorkness includes a chase scene in which Warner’s video-game capabilities help him steer an alien spaceship to victory – and, more interestingly, a search for the aforementioned Max Greyson, during which it turns out that the cartoonist disappeared a year and a half ago, but “‘Max’s comics have continued to be delivered even after his disappearance,’” as his former assistant explains. The assistant continues, “‘I’m pretty sure he was abducted by aliens. But I’m not supposed to talk about that. Every time I start talking about it, it just seems so unreasonable.’ ‘You’d be surprised how reasonable it sounds to us,’ said Kevin.” And there you have it: the intricacies (if that is the right word) of the plot of the second book, and also the setup for what will become the third. Galaxy’s Most Wanted is harmless, lighthearted (and lightheaded) entertainment, especially suitable for young readers who are thrilled by dialogue such as, from the first book, “‘Umm, hey, nimrods… There’s kind of more important stuff going on here than the Invention Convention. Like saving the world.’” And, from the second, “‘They’ve just taken over Oregon and pretty soon the entire planet!’”