cover image The Beast of Cretacea

The Beast of Cretacea

Todd Strasser. Candlewick, $18.99 (432p) ISBN 978-0-7636-6901-0

Equal parts Moby-Dick retelling, environmental cautionary tale, and coming-of-age story, Strasser’s (Fallout) fantastical SF epic blends disparate pieces into a harmonious whole. The saga begins with 17-year-old Ishmael setting off from a ravaged, dying Earth for life aboard a large fishing trawler on the planet Cretacea, hoping to send enough money back home to secure his foster parents’ future. Along with his small, diverse group of nippers, or young crewmen, Ishmael struggles to adjust to a world with water and sunlight, while facing the kinds of trials that shape a person’s future. The journey carries him through encounters with pirates, mysteries about his past, the search for his foster brother, and into the ultimate adventure of them all: attempting to capture the Great Terrafin. Filled with luscious depictions of life at sea that harken back to the golden age of science fiction, Strasser weaves an engrossing tapestry that evokes a sense of wonder and calls to the imagination. An unfortunately sanctimonious and heavy-handed ending is the only blemish on an otherwise pristine horizon. Ages 12–up. Agent: Stephen Barbara, Inkwell Management. (Oct.)