________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 21 . . . . June 8, 2007


How to Save the Universe Again.

Rob Payne.
Toronto, ON: Puffin Canada/Penguin Group, 2007.
247 pp., pbk., $12.99.
ISBN 978-014331242-0.

Grades 7-10 / Ages 12-15.

Review by Ann Ketcheson.

**** /4

Reviewed from Uncorrected and Unpublished Proofs.


I craned my neck toward a sliver of light, felt a wet plop along the back of my skull, and was instantly blinded. Illumination burned my closed eyelids like firecrackers exploding on my skin.  Colours swirled from red to yellow to purple before calming. When my eyes had adjusted I looked down to see dirt and what appeared to be a spinning grey rock just below my chin. I tried to twist but my skin seemed to be locked into place, fused against the cave my head had emerged from. I extended my neck as far as possible - amazed that it seemed so elastic - and peered from side to side. My breath caught and I swallowed hard. Below me was a twirling shell. I pivoted and noticed two dangling flaps of grey that looked suspiciously like antennae.

I couldn't believe it. I had turned into a snail.

Once again, John Fitzgerald has to give up his job at Burger Hut and save the universe! DIMCO's evil inter-dimensional agents have found him in Toronto and left him no choice. Fortunately, the friends who helped him in How to be a Hero on Earth 5, Gus and Delores, are available to once again join the fight.

     This young adult science-fiction novel is packed with weird and inventive adventures as John and his friends meet up with gigantic ants, a rampaging statue and victims of the black death who have come to life again. There is never a dull moment, especially since merely one's thoughts can have an effect on the outcome of events, to say nothing of reality distortions which, for example, turn a person into a snail! And, if this isn't enough stress, John is under pressure to find his parents who have been captured by DIMCO and may not survive their ordeal.

     From Toronto, Canada, to London, England, John is once again swept up in a bizarre fight against the bad guys if the universe is to be saved. Rob Payne's description of people and places is vivid, and the dialogue is zany yet realistic. The novel is packed with off-beat humour, such as

"Seeing as he's got an ego bigger than a football field we should be attacking that."

"We all know what pride comes before," I said.

"Prejudice," Gus murmured. "We had to read it in school."

     Reading a Rob Payne novel is rather like enjoying a superhero comic book, but with more detail and colour. Aspects of adventure, science fiction and fantasy are presented in a creative and humorous style so this is a sure-to-please young adult novel.

Highly Recommended.

Ann Ketcheson, who lives in Ottawa, ON, is a retired teacher-librarian and teacher of high school English and French. 

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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