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Monica Hughes
Toronto, HarperCollins, 1994. 171pp, cloth,
$16.95, ISBN 0-00-224253-2. CIP

Subject Headings:
Fathers and sons-Juvenile fiction.
Environmental protection-Juvenile fiction.
Extraterrestrial beings-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 6-8 / Ages 11-13

Reviewed by Judy Baxter

Volume 22 Number 4
1994 September

In this science fiction tale set on the planet Aqua in 2092, a space colony commander leads a mission to "terraform" or, in other words, mutilate the environment to suit human needs. His thirteen-year-old son Walt is reunited with his father after eleven years on Earth. Walt and his spunky female sidekick Solveig learn that there is actually intelligent life on the planet and that the space outpost from Earth should never have begun the transformation project.

The two friends figure out a way to communicate with the froglike locals and eventually overcome enormous odds and save the day. Walt even witnesses the transformation of his father due to some sort of post-traumatic metamorphosis. Unfortunately, the outcome of the story is predictable and there seems to have been insufficient space devoted to character development. In particular, the macho military father who despises poetry and tries to "reform" his son by brutalizing him comes across as a caricature. There is, however, an interesting plot twist when we learn that the human visitors to the planet are never really in control of their environment at all and they only survive because of the profound benevolence of the amphibian hosts.

Contemporary issues of great importance are treated in the story including the disturbing child abuse that Walt suffers at the hands of his father and the important ecological theme. Both are dealt with openly and effectively for young adult readers.

Judy Baxter is a reference librarian at Vancouver Island Regional Library in Nanaimo, British Columbia

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