Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews



Mark Walden
For ages 9 to 12
Simon and Schuster, 2013   ISBN: 978-1442494152

Eighteen months ago Sam had a normal life. A life that he wishes that he could have back, because now Sam is alone. He lives underground much of the time and only ventures out at night to gather food and supplies. Above ground the aliens rule. They seem to be half machine and half organic material, and their sole purpose seems to be to enslave humans or kill them.

   There was no warning that they were coming. One minute everything was normal, the next a huge floating disc was hovering above Buckingham Palace. Sam and his sister didn’t get much of a chance to speculate about the strange machine. The disk sent out a pulse of high pitched sound and bright light, and when Sam recovered he saw that his sister was completely unresponsive. When he went to check on his mother, he found out that she wass in the same condition. There was another pulse from the ship and then his mother and sister walked out of the house, clearly under the influence of the alien ship. People started pouring out into the streets and they are all in the same zombie-like state. For a while Sam stayed by his sister’s side, watching as the aliens directed the residents of London to serve as their unspeaking, unthinking slaves. Then he decided to go off on his own.

   Sam has to be very careful because there are small alien flying jellyfish-like machines called Hunters that patrol the city. When they see Sam they attack him and he has become adept at staying one very small step ahead of them.

   One day, after being attacked and injured by a Hunter, Sam encounters another human, a teenage girl who has somehow, like him, kept her free will. She takes Sam down to an underground bunker where he meets several other teenagers and two adults. The group is led by a man called Dr. Stirling, and the teens who go above ground to attack alien targets are trained by a former military man. Sam wonders why he and these other people are the only ones who have not been enslaved by the aliens (or the Threat as Sam’s new friends call them), and he suspects that Dr. Sterling knows more than he is telling them.

   After training with his new friends for a while, Sam and another boy called Jay are given the job of trying to infiltrate the Mothership, the big ship that floats above London. The Mothership seems to control the Hunters and the other machines, and the hope is that if the mechanism in the heart of the Mothership is damaged, then the rest of the machines will not be able to function properly, giving the members of the resistance a chance to attack.

   The teenagers pretend to be human slaves who are working on some kind of construction site. They manage to get deep inside a cave full of furnaces and other machines. Further in the cave they see that some kind of device is generating a beam of green light that is melting the rock in the ground and creating a hole that is going deeper and deeper into the earth. Sam and Jay have no idea what the Threat are up to, but they know that what they are seeing can’t be good news for humans.

   Then they meet a human, a man called Oliver Fletcher, who is apparently working for the Threat. He tells them that the alien presence is called the Voidborn and that Earth “is and always has been theirs.” Fletcher is clearly a traitor and he wants Sam and Jay to tell him where their headquarters is. Luckily, before he is able to force the boys into telling him everything they know, two other members of the group arrive and Sam and Jay are able to escape.

   Back at headquarters, Sam demands that Dr. Sterling tells them what is really going on. He never imagines that the truth will rock his world to its core.

   In this extraordinary book the author beautifully paces his story, giving us hints that all is not what it seems. He manages to give nothing away until just the right moment and readers are keep wondering and guessing throughout the story.