Flight of the Outcast

Flight of the Outcast

5.0 3
by Brad Strickland

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Asteria Locke's Fight has just begun...

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Asteria Locke's Fight has just begun...

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Strickland (Mars Year One) attempts to capture the spirit of the classic Heinlein juveniles with this first book in the Academy series. After an attack by space raiders, 13-year-old Asteria Locke is taken in by a colony of repressive religious fanatics. Using her dead cousin's papers, she escapes and enrolls in the Royal Space Fleet Academy, soon learning that commoners like herself and her best friend Dai are often at the mercy of “Aristos,” like the bullying, cheating Mastral Kayser. Asteria's struggles against her newfound nemesis and her experiences over her first year of school follow a largely predictable pattern, with early struggles eventually earning grudging respect. She's helped by the mysterious belt she finds among her father's possessions, which enhances her fighting and flying skills. Hanging over all of this is not only her father's death but the resentment among some Aristos over her father's heroic actions during a space battle. Strickland crams a lot into the book—clumsy exposition bogs down early chapters—and while the pace picks up, the story doesn't offer much to distinguish itself. Ages 9–12. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
""Good character development and plenty of momentum make this an enjoyable read, but there is clearly a lot more story ahead-this installment ends not with a cliffhanger but an anticipation of action yet to come." " - Kirkus

""Strickland creates a fast-moving story with plenty of action and a plucky central character, and the series' next installment will no doubt give more clues as to the nature of an evil conspiracy that involves aliens and a leading aristocratic family."" - Booklist

""Strickland's first in a new space series is that rarest of creatures: well-done Hard Science Fiction Adventure for middle grade readers. Excellent world-building, strong character development, and a swift pace will have fans of the genre eagerly anticipating Asteria's next year at the Academy."" - VOYA

VOYA - Timothy Capehart
In the year 2409, thirteen-year-old Asteria Locke has never been a fan of her lot in life: working on her father's farm with her ex-military father and her cousin on the fringe planet Theron. Even Sanctal, the closest settlement, inhabited entirely by the ridiculously religious Bourse, offers no respite. Then she loses everything in an attack by Raiders. The Bourse take her in but only with an eye on her father's domed agricultural lands. Facing the prospect of an arranged marriage, Asteria chops her hair and impersonates her cousin in an attempt to assume his appointment to the Royal Military Academy on distant planet Dromia, capitol of the Empyrion. On arrival, she discovers her father kept the fact that she was entitled to a similar appointment from her...as well as much else about his stint in the space fleet and how it ended. Never a social creature, Asteria has trouble fitting in at the Academy especially after Kayser, an Aristo (member of the ruling class,) takes umbrage at being beaten in hand-to-hand combat by a Commoner and a girl. As secrets continue to arise and the Alien Tetra attack, Asteria is even more determined to graduate the Academy and avenge her father. Strickland's first in a new space series is that rarest of creatures: well-done Hard Science Fiction Adventure for middle grade readers. Excellent world-building, strong character development, and a swift pace will have fans of the genre eagerly anticipating Asteria's next year at the Academy. Reviewer: Timothy Capehart
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—This series opener is a little bland. An orphan goes to the Royal Spacefleet Academy to learn how to be a pilot and ultimately get revenge on the raiders who killed her father and cousin. Asteria's story has an added twist in that Aristocrats are a part of this schema, and they exercise great control and power over Commoners, even though Commoners are allowed to attend the academy. Asteria's first year at the institution is filled with standard events. She makes new friends and an Aristo enemy, and, of course, that fact that the 13-year-old turns out to be the best pilot anyone has seen for a long while, with the help of a mysterious belt of alien technology that she found among her murdered father's belongings. The truth about his service in the military is revealed slowly over the course of the novel, and Asteria realizes toward the end that she will be a target of Aristo wrath for her father's deeds. She and her fellow commoner, Dai, also uncover a possible plot by her archenemy to help his uncle take over her former home world and join an alliance with the Tetra raiders who killed her family. The pacing and plot are adequate, if predictable, but the writing is pedestrian. For middle graders who like science fiction, this book might suffice, but Asimov it isn't.—Robin Henry, Wakeland High School, Frisco, TX
Kirkus Reviews
Asteria Locke is the only survivor of a Raider attack against her father's farm. Anxious to leave the memory of her family's demise as well as the restrictive religious authority on her home world of Theron, she escapes to the Royal Spacefleet Academy, where they have to give her a place in honor of her father's past heroism. She soon settles into the routine of academic life, excelling in sports and flight simulation, and she even starts to make friends. But while she may be finding a place of her own, the Aristos of the school have it in for her: She's just too good for a commoner. And they'll stop at nothing to drum her out of the school-and to hide a shameful secret from her father's past that could change the balance of power in the universe. Good character development and plenty of momentum make this an enjoyable read, but there is clearly a lot more story ahead-this installment ends not with a cliffhanger but an anticipation of action yet to come. (Science fiction. 10-14)

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Product Details

Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 8.02(h) x 0.65(d)
800L (what's this?)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Asteria Locke's world ended quite suddenly one noon in the early summer of her thirteenth Standard year. Before that hour, she had been the daughter of a farmer on the fringe planet of Theron. Before that day, she had no brothers or sisters, but she did have a cousin who-how she envied him-had been destined to travel offworld, to study at the most prestigious school in the Empyrion. She also had a father who had once served in the Royal Empyrean Space Fleet, though her mother had been dead for a long time.
After that day, she had no one.
Yet after that day-after that hour-she set out on the long path to becoming a legend.
It all ended, and it all started, on her father's Upland farm on Frejaland, the northernmost continent of Theron. Asteria thought of it as a crowded land. It held nearly seventy thousand humans in all, counting the three who lived on the farm.
The farm perched on the high plateau called Keleran. The soil there was fertile. Carlson Locke had always told his daughter they were lucky the Empyrion had given them forty thousand hectares of such land to farm. There he had built a home, raised biodomes, become a prosperous farmer-and had married a wife and fathered one child, a girl, Asteria.

Who was currently bored out of her mind.
Asteria Locke wondered for the thousandth time why her father refused to purchase Cybots to help on the farm. Or why he would not trust the Artificial Intelligence machinery to do its job on its own. Instead he insisted that she and her cousin, Andre, help him with the crops. So here she sat in the cockpit of a massive crawling crop tender, wishing she were some­where else. Or at least wishing for a surprise visit from her dad, spanking new Cybot in tow, to run the AI. Her wrist transceiver chirped, and she said, "Yes, Dad?"
Carlson Locke's crisp voice asked, "Where are you, Star?"
Star. Asteria wrinkled her nose at the babyish nickname. "I'm in Dome Seven. Where else would I-"
The connection broke.
"Checking up on me," muttered Asteria. You'd think he'd know that a thirteen-year-old was responsible enough to do the job without his constant micromanagement. But no. Probably came of his experience in the Royal Space Fleet. Everything had to be shipshape and military style.
The crop tender slowly rolled along, its tires (taller than she was) sticking precisely in the furrows between the plants. The pliant, flexible green blades of the coffera crop-the grain so nutritious that it made colonization of nearly barren worlds possible-folded forward under the rollers of the machine, to be scanned, evaluated, checked for parasites, and then fertilized and watered to exact specifications.
Asteria gazed up at the vast expanse of glass above her. She might as well have been fifty kilometers away...or fifty light years, for that matter. Her brain was meant for more than farming.
The high agridome was necessary, because on the Keleran Plateau, the growing season otherwise would have been short and brutally cool. The structure was so huge that she could see a drift of cloud just below the far-off ceiling. When the crops were nearing harvest, the domes became humid, and occasion­ally, the clouds produced a thin indoor rain, drifting down lazily in the low gravity of this world. Outside the domes waist-deep fangrass waved in chilly breezes, flashing silver and scarlet. Outside the sky overhead was deep blue, etched with streaky ice clouds. Inside, though, the air felt almost muggy.
All the readouts continued to be nominal. Hoping her father wasn't monitoring her too closely, Asteria plugged in a pulse­book. She shivered as the neural connection sent first a cold, then a warm feeling flooding down her spine. Then the book took over, and she let herself relax into the near-trance state that she loved so much. In a burst, the pulsebook planted the new chapter in her mind. It would flower not only in words but in sights, sounds, smells, and tastes. The book would become as real in her mind as a memory. It was a history book. She was up to Chapter 11, which told of the Empyrion's first encounter with the Tetras, the alien race that still posed a threat somewhere out there in the vastness of the galaxy.
In the two-thousand-and-first year of the Empyrion, under the rule of the Dantor Dynasty, the Royal Military Academy received as its priority mission the discovery and settling of additional colony worlds. The first of these were the Varrian Cluster planets, the seven worlds most like the lost home planet of Earth, with the correct balance of oxygen and water. Tolerable temperature ranges permitted-
With her eyes closed, Asteria skipped ahead. She knew all the dry background stuff already. She wanted to see the battle.
...as the Third Exploratory Fleet dropped into normal space just outside the Vigan System, for the first time humans came under attack.
In her mind's eye the massacre unreeled: The human ships were enormous, six craft in all, each carrying a complement of more than a thousand people. They looked like scale-model planets, dully gleaming silver spheres bristling with instruments and weapons.
The Tetraploid ships that assaulted them were tiny slivers by comparison: silvery spearheads so small that not even a tiny human could fit inside them. They darted in at incred­ible speeds, fired their weapons mercilessly-and when the human crafts' shields held, they rammed the much larger vessels. The first few impacted the shields and exploded. The following alien craft slowed until they were able to penetrate the force barrier. Whoever controlled them seemed to realize that projectiles and missiles moving at top speed were held back, but anything going slower than a thousand kilometers a second could break through.
When the small alien ships came in contact with the hulls, they exploded. The tiny, fiery eruptions made Asteria wince as the human ships-the Cancarra, Apex, Strigia, and Hosmer-blasted apart silently, one by one. The remaining two human vessels, the Concordand the Svestia, attempted to escape into translight space. Only the Svestia made it. She limped back to port with a third of her crew dead or wounded to report that for the very first time in history, humanity had encountered hostile aliens.
The Space Fleet immediately began to create a counter­strike force-
Asteria's communicator chirped again, rousing her from her reverie. "Yes, Dad?"
"Home. Now. Raiders."

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