cover image River Rats

River Rats

Caroline Stevermer, Stevermer. Harcourt Children's Books, $23 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-15-200895-6

In this futuristic fable, almost a generation has passed since the Apocalypse poisoned the Mississippi River and destroyed a united society. On board the restored paddleboat River Rat , Tomcat and his friends travel up and down the polluted waters, bartering news, mail and music for fuel and food. Orphans all, these children escaped school, slavery and other assorted evils and now enjoy a free and easy life on the river. They don't take passengers but, encountering a man hunted by a group of rednecks, find themselves changing their rules and getting into big trouble. The rednecks commandeer the ship, and the children set off in search of the most frightening treasure of their time--firearms. Calling to mind such widely disparate writers as Mark Twain, Andre Norton and Peter Dickinson, Stevermer ( The Serpent's Egg ) paints a realistic ruin of society. In the tradition of good speculative fiction she offers up an appealing landscape for adventure, yet her unwavering interest in the individuals who live there distinguishes the novel from mere space opera. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)