Clark’s debut, a complicated and often goofy SF fantasy about an evil power trying to take over the world, brandishes his background as a former Mad magazine contributor. Starring a Harry Potter–like triumvirate—two boys, Freak and River, and sharp, smart Fiona—the story begins with a sofa that has been mysteriously abandoned by their bus stop, in which the children find a rare zucchini-colored crayon. Their discovery launches a complex narrative involving a long-burning underground coal fire and an abandoned chemical plant, which turns out to be a portal to another universe. Offbeat plot elements include mind control through cellular phones and food additives, flash mobs, artificial intelligence in the form of furniture and a domino, an elderly axe-wielding ghost, and human spies wearing dog hats as disguises. The kids’ uncertainty about who to trust and the novel’s swift pace create unyielding suspense. Readers without much taste for this genre may find it too over-the-top, but for those destined to become Douglas Adams fans it will be hilarious and gripping. Ages 8–12. Agent: Kate Epstein, Epstein Literary Agency. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/20/2013 Release date: 07/02/2013 Genre: Children's
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