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Spencer, Bev
Richmond Hill (Ont.), Scholastic Canada,
1993. 160pp, paper, $4 .95, ISBN 0-590-74602-2 CIP

Grades 7-9 / Ages 12-14

Reviewed by Jennifer Johnson

Volume 22 Number 2
1994 March / April

Spaceship Down, a science fiction adventure tale, begins with the equivalent of a computer wake-up call for the three primary characters. Chemically wakened from a cryogenic sleep, Treat and Rafe, two young adults, are just beginning to discover how much they dislike each other when the ship is unexpectedly disabled. The central computer is damaged, all of the adults are killed, and Treat and Rafe are left with only the most rudimentary equipment and scanners. They now have the responsibility of caring for four-year-old Cal, orphaned by the accident, and, with only a limited supply of air, must venture out onto an unexplored planet.

What ensues is a survival tale with a twist. Not only do Treat and Rafe have to deal with the challenges of an unknown environment, but they discover that "spacers" are illegallly mining the planet, so much so that its physical stability may be threatened along with any life forms which might be native to the planet.

Bev Spencer has created an intriguing, fast-paced adventure in  Spaceship Down. Her characters are strong and their tough-talking style will probably appeal to young adult readers. The concept of "space brats" transported around the galaxy by working parents is very attractive and allows her characters to express anger against adult guardians. The plot is creative and the sequence of events works to a satisfying, if sudden, conclusion.

While the book is well constructed, one wishes that Spencer had settled down to one or two of the issues raised and explored them more fully.  Spaceship Down is so packed with action that it seems that there is too much here for one tale. A gentler handling of the personal growth of the two main characters would have resulted in a stronger story, but, for an adventure-hungry audience, this provides a stirring action tale.

Optional purchase.

Jennifer Johnson is a part-time children's librarian in Ottawa, Ontario

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