cover image Shade's Children

Shade's Children

Garth Nix. HarperCollins Publishers, $18.99 (310pp) ISBN 978-0-06-027324-8

Plunge directly into a nightmare--a scrawny boy flees monstrous trackers in an urban wasteland. Gradually the reader learns that Earth has been taken over by the terrible Overlords, the laws of physical reality warped, all adults killed, the brains and body parts of children raw material for endless war games. Led by an all-too-human artificial intelligence known as Shade, a forlorn resistance battles on, with hope only because the misfit warriors have special talents that came with the Change. Throughout the struggle, hints that Shade's sympathies are not irrevocably human add additional suspense. Although the trappings here are science fiction, Nix tells essentially the same story as he did in Sabriel: a desperate quest by a talented few, aided by a potentially treacherous Other, to destroy the source of the power of an evil force that has poisoned the world. As in the author's previous book, the alternate world he creates is amply imagined and the twists and turns of the action-filled plot compelling, though the flat banality of the Overlords' evil is disappointing, as is the sketchy characterization of the four major protagonists. But while the book lacks some of the emotional depth of Nix's first work, it will draw (and keep) fans of the genre. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)