cover image Shape-Changer


Bill Brittain. HarperCollins Publishers, $14 (108pp) ISBN 978-0-06-024238-1

Derivative and pedestrian, Brittain's SF/fantasy tale borrows the intriguing concept of shape-shifting wholesale from the TV series Deep Space 9 , but runs it into the ground with a static plot. Frank Dunn, the narrator, discovers a marooned alien named Zymel, who looks like a small blob of gray Jell-O but can instantly change into anything or anyone at will. Frank, his friend Lauren Hobischer and Zymel then scramble to find Zek, Zymel's evil rival, who arrives slightly ahead of his alien counterpart and intends to use his form-altering gift to wreak havoc among humans. While Frank and Lauren are reasonably lively and well-drawn, the shape-shifting sequences rarely spark or challenge the imagination, and the ``surprise'' ending falls flat. Moreover, the recurring, hokey dialogue cliches seem more suited to a Tom Mix adventure yarn than to '90s science fiction. Ages 8-12. (May)