20 October 2014

YA SF short stories, some brand new, some aged

YA SF | Other Worlds | Edited by Jon Scieszka

While most YA books are extremely satisfactory to not-so-young adults, is it the same for YA SF short stories? I'll take you story-by-story through this collection.

Percy Jackson and the Singer of Apollo by Rick Riordan is a short story in which Percy gets up to his usual shenanigans. Bamboozled by Apollo into recovering his missing Singer, Percy and Grover race to save New York from certain doom at the Singer's ... vocal cords. Like a short episode from any of the Percy Jackson books.

Bouncing the Grinning Goat by Shannon Hale is about a teen girl who joins the Grinning Goat inn as a bouncer under false pretences, but makes it all work in the end. One of the best stories in the book.

The Scout by DJ McHale is about a young Scout who's not too interested in following the scripted desert trek prescribed by the Scout Leader. He is attacked by an alien device. Is it the precursor to an invasion of the world? A completely unexpected ending. I liked this story quite a bit.

Rise of the RoboShoes TM by Tom Engleberger is an illustrated story. The illustrations are like someone who just learned to use MS Paint would do. The story is not much better. This may go down okay with the 10-12 year-old crowd, but maybe not. Not the best story in the book.

The Dirt on Our Shoes by Neal Shusterman is about a generation ship which is soon due to make planetfall. Some of the kids on the ship are better students, less questioning, more privileged. Some are barely surviving, and struggle to eat enough, let alone be able to afford luxuries like bathing water. Which of them is going to be the ones needed on the new colony? Slightly predictable for non-young-adult readers.

Plan Bby Rebecca Stead had me scratching my head to get to understand what was going on, but the denouement was quite a surprise.

A Day in the Life by Shaun Tan is a graphic story aka comic. Reasonably well drawn, but not such a great plot. Again, not the best story in the book.

The Klack Bros Museum by Kenneth Oppel is a new take on ghost stories. Very nicely done atmosphere and tension. And a surprising end. Very satisfying.

The Warlords of Recess by Eric Nylund is a light story about cunning empire-builders who take over planets based on Rules which they follow rigorously, and to the detriment of the taken-over. They meet their match in a high school playground during recess. Fair, but slightly writing-down-to-kids type stuff. Say, of the style of the Spy Kids movies.

Frost and Fire by Ray Bradbury rounds off the book. It's about a planet where the days are super short, and the weather is super dangerous. Humans there have evolved to match the planet. People live only for a week. The hero and heroine of the piece try to save the people by attempting to reach the old lander, where things would presumably be better. A really old style Bradbury story. People would classify this as pure fantasy today, but back then when it was written, it was viable SF. A fairly good read, if not a fully satisfactory end. Why did they leave most of the people in the bad situation, I keep wondering.

All in all, a fair sampling of mostly good stories in SF and fantasy for young readers.

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