The Beasties

William Sleator, Author Dutton Books $15.99 (198p) ISBN 978-0-525-45598-1
With all the moral complexity of H.G. Wells's The Time Machine, Sleator's (The Spirit House) latest novel revolves around a community of small, pasty creatures that live underground and harvest the humans who inhabit the surface. The Beasties have been deprived of their forest home and of various crucial body parts by commercial loggers. They replace their losses with human limbs, which they amputate from the human host, using crude surgical techniques. When teenage Doug, the narrator, and his little sister Colette move to a deserted house in the country, the Beasties coerce the pair into helping them maim a logger. As the rather stereotypical pair of children (Doug is an athlete, Colette is a bookworm) begins to sympathize with the Beasties' plight, they are forced into ethically challenging positions throughout the book (e.g., Doug even donates one of his eyes to the creatures' new leader, who is blind). The moral dilemmas here are exceptionally well developed (although the question of Colette's possible brainwashing is never fully resolved), and the Beasties' unusual speech lends a quaint poignancy to their otherwise disgusting character: ""You thinking you can just pry out where we live and snooping around and then go bye-bye... I'm so sorry, my strong, healthy young anatomies, but it doesn't working that way."" This gleefully icky horror show may well leave readers with some soul-searching questions about nature's changing environment that resonate long after the cover is closed. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
Genre: Children's
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