Area 51 Interns: Alien Summer by James S. Murray & Carson Smith (book review).

April 26, 2022 | By | Reply More

  ‘Area 51 Interns: Alien Summer’ is the first in what looks as though it will become a series of novels aimed at the 8-12 year olds. The second volume will be titled ‘Zone Out’ so there’s going to be at least two books. As the edition I’m reviewing as an Advance Readers Copy, it was accompanied with some additional marketing material and I think they are really going to do a proper campaign to push this.

  Assuming they can get their target audience to notice the book does it have a captivating story? Well, yes it does. Admittedly, it relies very heavily on the urban legends surrounding Area 51. Just the fact that the Government neither confirms or denies them just ensures that they are all true right?

  Its not surprising then that in the first paragraph of Chapter 1, Vivian Harlow is trying to hide as a horde of aliens start to overrun Area 51. Viv, as she is known, is not enjoying this particular Take Your Kids To Work Day and neither are her three school friends who are also unlucky enough to have parents working at Area 51.

  Viv’s Mum just happens to be Cassandra Harlow, Director of Future Technology at Area 51. A top position at the establishment and a bit of a contrast to Viv’s friend, Ray. His dad is Chief Custodial Officer which in plain English means Janitor. Viv’s other friend Charlotte has both parents working at Area 51 at a managerial level somewhere between Director and Janitor. Things get emotionally complicated for Viv when she bumps into her secret crush from school, Elijah Padilla. His father who is ex-air force also works at Area 51.

  The Take Your Kids To Work Day starts pretty much as the kids expect as its boring. The facility is boring and the presentation is boring. Things become a lot more interesting and hazardous once the aliens escape from their holding pens. The true nature of the facility is revealed along with some rather impressive technology.

  The four friends eventually get into the ‘The Gadgets Room’ and each one equips themselves with whatever takes their fancy. Viv dons a Combat Suit, Elijah a Flight Suit, Charlotte a pair of Duplicator Gauntlets, while Ray grabs a Growth Ray gun. These somewhat reflect each person’s character.

  The mission for the four is fairly obvious at the start, they must traverse Area 51, defeat the aliens and rescue their parents. Of course, things are never that simple. The four have to overcome numerous obstacles individually and collectively. Their distinct personalities are both a hindrance and a benefit depending on the situation.

  I read the book over two days and I will admit that I actually enjoyed it. Yes, I know its aimed at the 8-12 year old market but to succeed it has to have an engaging story. This one does. It seems to be pitched at the right level, is humorous in places (yes, there is some toilet humour) and the characters are so varied every child will be able to identify with one or more of them.

  The ending is satisfactory but with several hooks that should get the kids wanting to get the next book just to see what happens.

  Now that we have got the actual story out of the way I’m going to comment on the look, feel and presentation of the book. A lot of work has gone into this and it’s a job very well done. The cover depicts the four youngsters in what could easily be a still from a cartoon of the book. Inside, there are graphics of electrons circling an atom at each chapter heading and sometimes a whole page is given over to a graphic. The font size is a little larger than usual which was very welcome.

  In the middle of the book are four, full colour pages detailing various things from the story. These include the chief nemesis and the various bits of technology that the kids adopt, along with depictions of the most interesting bits of Area 51.

  I think the packaging of the story will go a long way to making this a commercial success. Having an enjoyable story also helps of course. I would recommend this for any boy or girl in the 8-12 age category who likes a bit of SF.

Andy Whitaker

April 2022

(pub: Penguin Workshop, 2022. 240 page illustrated hardback. Price: $16.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-593-22612-4)

check out website: www.penguin.com/kids

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Category: Books, MEDIA, Scifi


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About AndyWhitaker

I live in deepest darkest Essex where I enjoy photography, real ales, walking my dog, cooking and a really good book. I own an e-book reader which goes with me everywhere but still enjoy the traditional paper based varieties.

My oriental studies have earned me a black belt in Suduko and I'm considered a master in deadly Bonsai (there are very few survivors).

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