From the Publisher
“With competent manga-style illustrations by the award-winning Ibardolaza…this stands as a worthy young adult adventure novel.” Publishers Weekly
“A high-octane outer space adventure… The main characters in this volume are largely female, strong and intelligent, a wonderful departure from male-dominated extraterrestrial offerings. Ibardolaza's muscular art blends manga and Western aesthetics. An intriguing beginning; readers will clamor for the follow-up.” Kirkus Reviews
“It's a fun read, aided by the dynamic artwork of illustrator Honoel A. Ibardolaza. And the cliff-hanger ending will leave readers waiting anxiously for the next installment.” Deseret News
Two BFF tween girls apply for an elite gig as tenders for four giant towers known as Ladders, which rise up to a space station powering all Earth. The Ladders and Laddertop, we learn, were supplied by the Givers, mysterious aliens still opaque to the humans administering Laddertop. Only children are small and light enough to perform vital system maintenance. While the adventure and the interkid rivalries hook in the plot, a deeper metaphor lurks beneath: the mysteries of adulthood and its relationships. For if the alien signals have been indecipherable, so, too, is the behavior of the adult humans who lead the "web rats" into their new role. Should Robbi, Azure, and Xichab trust their instincts or follow instructions? And whose instructions? What's more, the aliens appear to be communicating directly with Robbi, and what does that mean? VERDICT A first-class plot could be developing here, although it's too early to foresee how it will play out. While not so stylish or dramatic as Japanese manga art, the black-and-white drawings are well designed and attractive. Teens and tweens will find this story intriguing.—M.C.
School Library Journal
Gr 5 Up—A series of alien platforms lands on Earth, extending from the surface out to space, symbolic and actual ladders for humanity to climb out into the wider cosmos. Students Robbi and Azure are selected to be two of many recruits to attempt to understand and perhaps pilot these extraterrestrial enigmas. Comics in general and manga in particular both come in for much criticism for extending and slowing dramatic sequences with an eye toward gradual serialization. Not so here, with at least 20 characters and three prominent mysteries introduced in this initial volume. Still, it's very much an introductory chapter of a longer story, and the pace at which the stakes deepen and the power dynamics shift is either the result of dropped story threads or massive ambition. Orson Scott Card's world-creation bona fides don't need much introduction, and the central mysteries revolve around clues that Robbi encounters about the extraterrestrials' presence on and intentions for Earth. The central drama comes mostly from the protagonists' reactions to the arcane bureaucracy around them, Robbi taking a considered and hesitant perspective, with Azure relying on a constant and sheer force of will. The manga-style artwork has some mild fluctuations in terms of consistent quality, but is undeniably professional. Ibardolaza is strong at mystery and alienness, but uneven at genuine feeling and the vast spectacle and scale for which the Cards seem to be asking. A solid start that will find an eager audience.—Benjamin Russell, Belmont High School, NH
A high-octane outer-space adventure slated to be the first in a twosome.
Preteens Robbi and Azure are best friends, though the girls couldn't be more opposite: Robbi is a sensitive dreamer, while Azure is a driven go-getter with a short temper. Azure's biggest dream is to be picked for Laddertop. This is a program of the Givers, aliens who claim to help conserve Earth's resources by building power-providing space stations 36,000 feet above the Earth; these are reached by giant ladders. Children are chosen to attend Laddertop since their small stature makes it possible for them to perform maintenance in the cramped spaces. Azure is delighted to learn she's picked for the mission, but Robbi is more reluctant. She reveals that her stepfather is abusive, and she worries about the safety of her younger siblings in her absence. Once in the Laddertop training program, strange things begin to happen to Robbi: She's bitten by a strange creature that imprints her with a tattoo that periodically bleeds, and she is plagued by strange dreams. The main characters in this volume are largely female, strong and intelligent, a wonderful departure from male-dominated extraterrestrial offerings. Ibardolaza's muscular art blends manga and Western aesthetics.
An intriguing beginning; readers will clamor for the follow-up. (Graphic science fiction. 12 & up)