cover image The Engineer of Beasts

The Engineer of Beasts

Scott Russell Sanders. Orchard Books (NY), $0 (258pp) ISBN 978-0-531-05783-4

From the author of Bad Man Ballad comes this terrific fantasy . Sanders takes readers on a whirlwind tour of a future Earth, where cities are domed for protection against the deadly environment and the only animals are machines in the local ``disneys,'' or mechanized zoos. Orlando Spinks runs his father's disney. Life has a pleasant sameness to it until Mooch (age 12, product of a test-tube experiment and chronic truant from the Home for Little Wanderers) disappears into the lion's mouth. Orlando is captivated by Mooch's vibrancy, her originality and creative genius for mechanicals, and she becomes his apprentice and surrogate grandchild. Together they turn the disney into a replica of the long-gone real environment, but this leads to disaster, with imprisonment for both. Orlando's machines are taken away, and he is forced into fixing broken appliances as penance, and Mooch is sent to the Cape Cod ``refarmatory'' where she is analyzed by a bemused psychiatrist who can't understand her simple-minded love for real animals. Yet this is the beginning of real life for Mooch and Orlando, for it is the force of Mooch's dream to return to the real world that both overwhelms and then expands their lives. Beautifully written, this book is alternately funny and poignant and filled with memorable characters. A Richard Jackson Book. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)