cover image Randoms


David Liss. Simon & Schuster, $17.99 (496p) ISBN 978-1-4814-1779-2

In this romp of a space opera, adult author Liss’s first children’s book, 12-year-old science-fiction fan Zeke is picked as one of four human children to take part in a competition to determine whether Earth can join the peaceful Confederation of United Planets. There’s just one catch: while the other children were chosen for their intelligence and skills, Zeke is a “random,” selected by chance. The other human competitors decide that Zeke will drag down their score and ostracize him, which leaves Zeke to the other two ostracized randoms: the “cockney lizard” alien Steve—“Your name is Steve?” “That’s right. What of it?”—and the temperamental, feline Tamret. Things grow more complex when aliens from the rapacious Phandic Empire attack the Commonwealth spaceship, destroying a shuttle with other competitors on board; Zeke saves the day, but is branded a war criminal. Liss’s characters are engaging, the video-game-like competitions and SF commentary are fun, the sheer plenitude of alien species is fascinating, and the jokes just keep on coming. Ages 10–up. Agent: Liz Darhansoff, Darhansoff & Verrill. (Aug.)