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The 8th Continent Hardcover – September 16, 2014
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From School Library Journal
Gr 4–7—In this first volume of a projected series, grade school students Rick and Evie Lane are on a quest to transform the Pacific Garbage Patch into the world's eighth continent. Their father, George, once invented a formula that would turn this mass of floating plastic into fertile land, but now he only has half of the recipe. With the help of their robotic tutor, 2Tor, Rick and Evie set out to locate their father's old partner and the rest of the formula. Matters are complicated by a classmate, the pink-obsessed, plastic-loving 11-year-old "super-secret CEO" of an evil corporation. Details of the Lanes's over-the-top inventions and posh school (students sky-dive to class every day) give an excessively cartoonish feel to the book without helping to develop the plot or characters. "Science" in this science fiction is minimal, and utterly disregarded if it interferes with plot or cool gadgetry. At one point, the kids must name the four principles of aerodynamics, but no explanation is ever attempted as to how their giant sequoia hovercraft is able to stay aloft. The terraforming fluid works like magic to instantly transform plastics into mud populated with plant and animal life. The writing is frenetic, with a rapid succession of settings and dialogue that reads like a list of one-line jokes. Some reluctant readers may appreciate the zippy pace and original premise.—Rachel Anne Mencke, Al Raja School Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain
"Fast-paced action, cool inventions and remarkable robots combine for an auspicious opener." --Kirkus Reviews
"Good fun in the tradition of M. T. Anderson’s Pals in Peril series." --Booklist
"Zippy pace and original premise." --School Library Journal
“Kids will especially enjoy George’s outlandish robotic and vehicular inventions . . . in this fun yet thought-provoking story.” --Publishers Weekly
"This is a delightful start to the adventures of the Lane family, with their flying tree and their mechanical bird tutor. Evie and Rick and their brilliant if eccentric parents are wonderfully vivid, and the villains who try to impede them in their quest to save the Earth, equally memorable. It's all in the great tradition of adventure fiction for young readers, running back through Akiko and Freddy the Pig all the way to Tom Sawyer." --Kim Stanley Robinson, author of Red Mars
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As I was reading this book, I felt like I was watching a Nickelodeon cartoon show with its fast pace ridiculousness. It took a while for me to get into the story because of the many strange "sciency" descriptions and the many catch phrases that I had to read twice because I didn't quite get them the first time. Such as:
"Rick screamed like his server was down for maintenance." Huh?
"Rick flapped his arms like a grumpy eagle."
"Walking felt like he had stepped in a steak-sized wad of masticated chewing gum."
And although the story had a good premise of turning garbage into paradise it seemed ridiculous that these kids could do anything in the world to keep the plot moving along even though they were little kids. The main characters were not terribly interesting. Evie is considered stupid, impetuous, and more worried about how she will fit in at school than anything. Rick is super smart, is not proud of his dad who gets in trouble with Winterpole a lot, and doesn't want to go along with saving the earth. Dad can't seem to do anything right except invent new things. He leaves the kids to solve the world's problems. And mom is constantly saying UN-AC-CEPTABLE to everything.
But my biggest concern is Vesuvia Piffle who won't own anything unless it is made out of pink plastic. She is the daughter of the CEO of a major corporation and she is a bully. She is unbelievably violent for a kids novel. She once set a girl on fire for wearing the same dress and her father pays her $50,000 a month not to drown any more puppies. She attempts to murder Rick and Evie at least twice and she screams like a raving lunatic.
I found the characters and the plot to be shallow and the descriptions to be overworked, making it difficult to get through the story in one sitting. Children who grew up on a steady diet of Nikelodeon will enjoy this highly commercial story, but for those looking for a serious read, I would give it a pass.