“Lost Helix” by Scott Coon

This novel is pretty much a model of what YA Space Opera should be: a bit melodramatic, a bit realistic, a bit magical, and very escapist.

It has a nicely complex conflict, with DJ and Paul trying to escape the repressive, corporate-focused mining colony that restricts their lives and at the same time find DJ’s father, missing on a mysterious and possibly deadly mission. Meanwhile Derek, DJ’s father, is on a similar undertaking with less distinct objectives, and the two paths weave cleverly around each other until they meet, as we knew they would, at the end.

Like many Sci-Fi stories, this tale slips over the line into Fantasy; DJ the wizard with his magical ability to hack any computer system makes it easy for the author to move the plot along.

But the main attraction of the book is the characterization. DJ and Paul are the typical teenage duo: unpopular computer nerd and popular sports hero. The huge, cold physical and commercial environment they traverse is peppered with warm, realistic people, all with their own problems and goals. A standout is their fellow-stowaway, Maya, who is feisty and talented and appears and disappears like a wraith with her own kind of magic.

The more sophisticated reader will note that this tale takes the conventions of Space Opera a bit for granted: hopping from planetary metropolis to space station to colony outback farm with no pauses, like city folk jumping into a taxi at a whim. As mentioned above, more fantasy than perhaps the average mature reader wants.

But this is Young Adult, and other readers are probably willing to drop their inhibitions for the chance of a good, old-fashioned escape from reality.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

 

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