by Hannah Hopkins
2 out of 5
It's the year 2100. Earth is dying. A young woman, Elsie, has risked everything to get her newborn son, Will, aboard 'The Mayflower' - a spaceship that will transport a select number of people to a new planet they can call home. Elsie’s luck takes a turn when she discovers the captain of 'The Mayflower' is an old friend. He allows her to board with her son, giving them a place on the luxurious Floor One, where they live amongst the most honoured of 'The Mayflower’s' passengers.
Thirteen years later, and Will is ready to start school at Space Academy, an institute specialising in subjects such as Alien Studies, Technology, and Rocket Control. While a pupil there, Will starts to uncover secrets about his father's death, becoming wrapped in a mystery that he and his friends must solve if they are to have any hope of saving humanity from the threat that lies in wait.
Lose yourself in this brilliantly addictive novel as it takes you on a journey through the stars. But be warned - you might be surprised by what you find!
Will find new friends when he joins the Space Academy. He also finds the truth about his father; and that things might be more dangerous for the students than anyone dreams.
I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
The narrative is split between quite a few of the characters, including Will and his friends, his mother and one of his teachers. But is all follows Will, who has grown up on the spaceship Mayflower, as the last surviving humans make the long journey from a dying Earth, to their future home of Novum.
When he turns thirteen, Will gets to join the Space Academy, where he plans on making new friends (because his old ones suck); and aims to show he will be a valuable and skilled member of society when they finally make it to the new world.
I think this would appeal to younger MG readers. It's easy to read, clean and not too scary. The characters are all nice, and there is an imaginative world of aliens and space travel that Hopkins has created.
I'm not sure how teenagers might view the book, but as an avid reader of YA, I found a lot of the plot pleasant, but lacking.
I was very struck by how similar to Harry Potter this is. I know, I know, it's hard to write an SFF school story without having a few similarities; but this seemed to go a bit too far.
Will/Harry goes to Space Academy/Hogwarts via space shuttles/Hogwarts Express. He becomes friends with the poorest student Finley/Ron and brainiac Emily/Hermione. There are some snobby bullies who think Will shouldn't be friends with the riffraff (Draco & co).
Will hopes to be a professional rocket racer/Quidditch player, and in their first rocket lesson, he shows a certain knack for it.
There's a magic mirror/pensieve that allows people to view limited parts of the past. This bit really annoyed me, because the plot was completely dependent on this impossible piece of technology that no one attempts to explain - except for one teacher dismissing it as advanced alien tech he doesn't understand (but is willing to use and let his students use).
Even Will's household butler Derek was very clearly a Kreacher. A grouchy, grumbling little man who moves in the shadows, just to get shouted at by Will whenever he is rude.
BTW, for 95% of the book, I was shocked by Will's treatment of Derek - he's really mean to this guy for no obvious reason. Then the last 5% is like an excuse for how horrible Will has been.
Then there's the mysterious alien that chases them through the school (which felt like a mix of the troll and dementor).
This was so flippin' frustrating. They didn't tell the teacher the trusted, because the Head Teacher announced that students shouldn't have been out of bed. The priorities of Will & co are completely screwed.
Instead, despite stressing and repeating that the alien was likely very dangerous and looked like it could kill - the kids get on with school, a trip home for Hallows Eve, and more school. For such a dangerous threat hanging over their heads, there's no sense of urgency or, um... danger.
I didn't like how much of the story is set in the past - either from Elsie (Will's mum) reminiscing, or Mr Keacher thinking back to the Earth days, or Will & co witnessing the past via the magic mirror. It was definitely the stronger and more solid part, but the way it was wedged in... I was left with the feeling that the real story existed pre-Split, but the author wanted to turn it into a sci-fi Harry Potter instead.
The whole history and logic of the Split and the Mayflower is lacking.
I have no idea why they had to leave Earth. Comments about killer AI, global warming, wars (with no mention of who the enemy was), and gangs were all thrown in; but nothing was explained, and it didn't feel like they'd learnt any lessons from their history.
There's also no details on their future, apart from the vague - head to Novum.
We have no idea where Novum is, how long it will take to get there, if there's already a human base there?
For all we know, the Mayflower may be the last of humankind, flying solo to their new home. Then they mention that the Space Academy is a different craft, and although Will's never seen it, it's travelling with them?
Then in the closing of the book, the captain mentions that the other ships have been informed about the alien threat - wait a minute - what other ships? All of this basic stuff is ignored.
The Mayflower is supposed to be the one chance to save mankind and a chance to start anew, where all people are equal, valued by their skills...
Except it is built to house the rich people in luxury on Floor One & Two; all the way down to the slums of Floor 7. No one ever thought to call them out on this hypocrisy?
Or the fact that the Mayflower is supposed to be a collection of the brightest people, to continue humankind. Whether someone is rich or poor, if they are intelligent, they can earn a place on the Mayflower.
Except, once on board, only children from the rich floors can attend school. Finley is from Floor 7, and won a scholarship to attend - the first lower-floor student in the whole 13 years the Mayflower has been travelling.
Overall, a good idea and decent story-telling, but too many plotholes and lack of world-building.