Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews



Gloria Skurzynski
Fiction  Series
For ages 14 and up
Simon and Schuster, 2010   ISBN: 978-1442416802

Years ago disease and natural disasters wiped out most of the Earth’s human population. Now only two million people live in carefully contained dome cities, desperately holding on to what they have left and hoping for a better future. Then scientists discover that a tiny island in the Pacific is free of disease and nuclear radiation. Each of the three world powers wants the island, so they come up with a way to determine which of them will get it; they will have a virtual war. None of them can afford to lose people in a real conflict. Instead, each power will train three people to battle in a virtual war, a war where no one has to die or get injured.

Corgan has spent all of his fourteen years preparing to compete in the virtual war. He has incredibly fast reflexes that the Supreme Council hope will make it possible for him to win the virtual war. For fourteen years he has been raised by a computer program, and not once has he had real contact with a human being. He has never seen the sky or the sun, nor has he ever run on real earth. Then Corgan is introduced to the other members of his team, and his life changes forever.

First there is a Sharla, a beautiful girl who was raised like Corgan, but in her case her specialty is code breaking. Sharla uses her skills to make it possible for her to meet Corgan outside of the virtual reality world that the Supreme Council imposes on them. Corgan finally gets to touch and talk to a real human being, and he is thrilled by the experience.

Then Brig joins the team. He is a mutant who is dreadfully disfigured, but who is a master tactician. The Supreme Council members hope that Brig will help Corgan make the right decisions when the three of them are fighting the virtual war.

Thanks to Brig and Sharla, Corgan comes to appreciate that he has been very sheltered and there is much that he does not know about the world. Some of what he learns makes him angry, and some of the things he sees make him feel very sad. Being around his teammates, and working with them, helps Corgan to learn a lot about what it means to be a real human, a human who makes mistakes, who makes friends, and who loves.

In this unique book we are presented with a world where truth, honesty, and real emotion are hard to find. The need to survive has forced humans to adopt a lifestyle that is very sterile and clinical, and yet there are some, like Sharla, Brig, and Corgan, who want more out of life. With colorful and powerful characters, and a story that is delightfully unpredictable, this is a book that leaves readers with something to think about. What would you do if they were one of the last humans alive on planet Earth?