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Shade's Children

Shade's Children

4.5 122
by Garth Nix

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If you're lucky, you live to fight another day.

In a futuristic urban wasteland, evil Overlords have decreed that no human shall live a day past their fourteenth birthday. On that Sad Birthday, the children of the Dorms are taken to the Meat Factory, where they will be made into creatures whose sole purpose is to kill.

The mysterious Shade—once a man, but


If you're lucky, you live to fight another day.

In a futuristic urban wasteland, evil Overlords have decreed that no human shall live a day past their fourteenth birthday. On that Sad Birthday, the children of the Dorms are taken to the Meat Factory, where they will be made into creatures whose sole purpose is to kill.

The mysterious Shade—once a man, but now more like the machines he fights—recruits the few teenagers who escape into a secret resistance force. With luck, cunning, and skill, four of Shade's children come closer than any to discovering the source of the Overlords' power—and the key to their downfall. But the closer they get, the more ruthless Shade seems to become. . . .

Editorial Reviews

Scott Westerfeld
“This pitch-dark, post-apocalyptic thriller will keep you reading and wild-eyed. Fast, brutal and brilliant.”
Horn Book Magazine
“A slick, dark, engrossing novel. Grim, unusual, and fascinating.”
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Earth has been taken over by the terrible Overlords in this "amply imagined" science fiction/quest story, said PW. "The twists and turns of the action-filled plot are compelling." Ages 12-up. (Oct.) r
Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
All the essential ingredients are here-the setting is a future world where anyone over the age of 14 has been eliminated and the world is controlled by a group of Overlords who do nothing but fight battles. The grist for these battles are children who when they reach the age of 14 are turned into fighting machines with human components. Of course, a group has escaped and with the help of Shade, a holographic adult, they attempt to free the world from the grip of the Overlords. The story is tense and compelling, but it strangely falls apart at the very end. It is never clear why destroying the Thinker eliminates the Overlords, there is no retribution for their evil deeds, and no fear on the part of the children that they will return. Still it will appeal to Young Adult Sci-fi fans.
VOYA - Donna L. Scanlon
Through a fast-paced combination of narrative, transcripts, chilling statistical reports, and shifting points of view, Nix depicts a chilling future. Conquering Overlords from another dimension play an endless and ghastly game of war using creatures called Wingers, Myrmidons, Screamers, and Ferrets; each creature contains the transplanted brain of a human child culled when the child is fourteen. The novel follows a team of four young people who have escaped the Dormitories intended to warehouse them and who have come under the protection of Shade, a holographic image supported by artificial intelligence. Like others under Shade's protection, the four-Ella, Drum, Ninde, and Golden-Eye-are loyal to Shade, the only benign adult presence in their lives, and they willingly become soldiers in his struggle against the Overlords. But when Drum is captured while they are on a crucial mission, the team resolves to rescue him, regardless of whether the mission fits into Shade's plans. As events escalate, they even begin to question Shade's motives and means. Nix's taut narrative never lets go of the reader, and the characters are compelling, their frailties emphasizing their humanity in sharp contrast to the Overlords'. His grim vision of the future is laced with hope, an element noticeably missing from much of today's young adult literature, and it is this hope that sustains the reader through the nail-biting plot to the satisfying conclusion. VOYA Codes: 4Q 4P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses, Broad general YA appeal, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
School Library Journal
Gr 9 UpOne day, in the not-too-distant future, everyone over the age of 14 simply disappears. The remaining children are rounded up to live in dormitories. Once they reach their "Sad Birthday" they are sent to the "Meat Factory," where they are dismantled and used to make up the horrible half-human, half-mechanical creatures that fight the violent, ritualistic battles of the seven warlords who have taken over Earth. Some of the young people, however, develop psychic abilities that make escape from the dorms possible; they live underground, doing their best to avoid the creatures and certain death. An almost-sentient computer, Shade, uses teams of escapees to help him discover the secrets of the warlords so that he can return things to normal. When his best team completes a nearly impossible mission during which one of their own is captured, Shade refuses to authorize a rescue. It then becomes clear to the teens that he has no intention of letting things return to normal and that they are the last chance to save humanity from robotic servitude. Although this is a fast-paced, exciting, and often graphic story, it is pretty serious science fiction and its appeal will be limited to fans of the genre. Straight narrative chapters alternate with files from Shade's increasingly unbalanced memory, a device that works well in this context. A well-written and engaging book.Carrie Schadle, New York Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
This novel from Nix (Sabriel, 1995, not reviewed) combines plenty of comic-book action in a sci-fi setting to produce an exciting read.

Through a projector that can bend dimensions, the alien Overlords freeze time and make anyone over 14 vanish off the face of the Earth. What is left is a world of terrified children who are herded into dormitories, where their brains are eventually harvested and wired into the circuitry of the Overlord's willing beasts. Over the years, a handful of teens have found a home in the secret submarine base of Shade, a computer-generated holographic program and the only nurturing adult sensibility on the planet. The narrative follows the escape of Gold-Eye, a boy with precognizance, and his subsequent recruitment and training with Ella, Drum, and Ninde, who comprise one of Shade's crackerjack squads. Predictably, the group is involved in a mission to take out the Overlord's projector; Nix deftly weaves in a few surprising plot twists, and the teens must grapple not only with betrayal, but the loss of half their team in battle. The author pulls off a happy ending without straining credibility largely through the characters' sacrifice—a satisfying end to an action-adventure with uncommon appeal outside the genre.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.46(w) x 7.76(h) x 0.91(d)
Age Range:
13 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Gold-Eye crouched in a corner under two birdshit-caked blankets, watching the fog streaming through the windows. Sixteen gray waterfalls of wet air cascading in slow motion. One for each of the windows in the railway carriage.

But the fog had only a small part of his attention, something his eyes looked at while he strained his ears trying to work out what was happening outside. The carriage was his third hideout that day, and the Trackers had been all too quick to find the other two.

They were out there now, whistling in the mist; whistling the high-pitched, repetitive notes that meant they'd lost their prey. Temporarily . . .

Gold-Eye shivered and ran his finger along the sharpened steel spike resting across his drawn-up knees. Cold steel was the only thing that could kill the Overlords' creatures‹some of the weaker ones, anyway, like Trackers. Not Myrmidons . . .

As if on cue, a deeper, booming noise cut through the Trackers' whistles. Myrmidon battle sound. Either the force behind the Trackers was massing to sweep the area, or they'd encountered the forces of a rival Overlord.

No, that would be too much to ask for -- and the whistles were changing too, showing that the Trackers had found a trail. . . . His trail . . .

With that thought Gold-Eye's Change Vision suddenly gripped him, showing him a picture of the unpleasantly close future, the soon-to-be-now.

Doors slid open at each end of the carriage, forced apart by metal-gauntleted hands four times the size of Gold-Eye's own. Fog no longer fell in lazy swirls, but danced and spiraled crazily as huge shapes lumbered in, moving to the pile of blankets. . . .

Gold-Eye didn't wait to see more. He came out of the vision and took the escape route he'd planned months before, when he'd first found the carriage. Lifting a trapdoor in the floor, he dropped down, down to the cold steel rails.

Back in the carriage, the doors shrieked as they were forced open, and Gold-Eye both heard and felt the drumbeat of Myrmidon hobnails on the steel floor above his head.

Ignoring the new grazes on his well-scabbed knees, he began to crawl across the concrete ties, keeping well under the train. The Trackers would wait for the Myrmidons now, and Myrmidons were often slow to grasp what had happened. He probably had three or four minutes to make his escape.

The train was a long one, slowly rusting in place between Central and Redtree stations. Like all the others, it was completely intact, if a little timeworn. It had just stopped where it was, all those years ago.

Not that Gold-Eye knew it as a form of transport. It was just part of the fixed landscape to him, one of the many hiding places he moved among. Gold-Eye didn't have memories of a different time, except for the hazy recollection of life in the Dorms -- and his escape with two older children. Both of them long since taken . . .

At the end of the train, he got down on his belly under the locomotive, steel spike clutched in his fist, white knuckles showing through the ingrained dirt.

Peep, peep, peep, peep, peep, peep . . .

The Trackers were on the move again, spreading out to search. It sounded like a trio on each side of the train, coming toward him.

Gold-Eye pictured them in his head, trying to get his Change Vision to show him exactly where they were.

But the Change Vision came and went when it chose, and couldn't be controlled. This time it didn't show him anything -- but a memory arose unbidden, a super-fast slide show of Trackers flashing through his mind.

Thin, spindly stick-humans that looked like half-melted plastic soldiers. Bright, bulbous eyes, too large for their almost-human eye sockets. Long pointed noses that were almost all red-flared nostril . . .

They could smell a human out with those noses, Gold-Eye knew. No matter where he hid.

That thought was foremost as Gold-Eye listened again. But he couldn't work out where the Trackers were, so he edged forward till he was almost out from under the train and could get his knees and feet up like a sprinter on the starting blocks. It was about thirty yards to the embankment wall. If he could cross that open space and get up it, the Trackers would go past to look for an easier way up -- and Myrmidons were very slow climbers.

At this time of day that left only Wingers to worry about, and they would be roosting in City Tower, avoiding the fog.

Then the Trackers whistled again, giving their found signal -- and Myrmidons boomed in answer, frighteningly close.

With that boom, Gold-Eye shot out like a rabbit, jinking and zigzagging over the railway lines, frantic with a terrible realization.

The Myrmidons had crept through the train!

He could hear their boots crashing onto the gravel around the tracks as the huge creatures jumped down from the lead carriage, the bass shouts of their battle cries joining the frenzied whistles of the Trackers.

Heart pounding, face white with sudden exertion, Gold-Eye hit the embankment at speed, reaching head height before he even needed to take his first hold. Then, as his feet scrabbled to take him higher, he reached out . . . and slipped.

The fog had laid a film of moisture on the old stones of the embankment, and in his panic Gold-Eye had run to one of the hardest spots to climb. His fingers couldn't find any cracks between the stones. . . .

Slipping, his feet touched bottom, and he added his own wail of despair to the awful noise of the creatures behind him.

Soon the Myrmidons would surround him, silver nets shooting out to catch him in their sticky tracery. Then a Winger would come to take him away. Back to the Dorms. Or if he was old enough . . . straight to the Meat Factory.

Shade's Children. Copyright © by Garth Nix. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are Saying About This

Scott Westerfeld
“This pitch-dark, post-apocalyptic thriller will keep you reading and wild-eyed. Fast, brutal and brilliant.”

Meet the Author

Garth Nix was born in 1963 in Melbourne, Australia. A full-time writer since 2001, he has worked as a literary agent, marketing consultant, book editor, book publicist, book sales representative, bookseller, and part-time soldier in the Australian Army Reserve. Garth's books include the award-winning fantasy novels Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen; Clariel, a prequel in the Abhorsen series; the cult favorite teen science fiction novel Shade's Children; and his critically acclaimed collection of short stories, To Hold the Bridge. His fantasy novels for younger readers include The Ragwitch, the six books of the Seventh Tower sequence, the Keys to the Kingdom series, and A Confusion of Princes. His books have appeared on the bestseller lists of the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, the Guardian, and the Australian, and his work has been translated in forty languages. He lives in Sydney, Australia, with his wife and two children.

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Shade's Children 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 122 reviews.
Betsaronie More than 1 year ago
No adults, no freedom, and no sense of security. Sounds pretty awful doesn't it? In Garth Nix's Shade's Children that's exactly what the world has become. In this futuristic sci-fi semi-thriller, teens are harvested for their organs and muscles on their 14th birthday. Sometimes they are kept alive as long as 18 in order to breed more body parts so that the Overlords can play games. When the Overlords came, all the adults disappeared, children and teens were then rounded up and taken to prison/factories, called the Dorms, so they could use them create creatures, powered by human parts, in an effort to win territory during battles. Few have escaped the Dorms, and run the streets fearing they will be caught. Gold-Eye is one such escapee. While running from Myrmidons, powerful machine-like creatures, he is saved by other escapees, Ella, Drum and Ninde. They are Shade's Children. They take him back to their hideout and introduce him to Shade; once a man, but now more of a memory preserved in a machine, he fights against the Overlords through his Children. Gold-Eye joins his saviors' team as the go on missions to discover why the Overlords are here and what can be done to stop them. More and more Children never return from these missions. Shade, who at first seems like the answer to every runaway's problems, starts to seem more and more like a ruthless machine, determined to win no matter what the cost. Nix creates a believable, and frightening world that makes the atrocities of the Overlords cut to the heart of the reader. The characters are developed in a way similar to how you get to know a person. Gold-Eye is the main character, and so we meet people through him, but at the same time we learn more about his past and how far he is willing to go for those he becomes close to. Not everything is revealed right away, you learn bits and pieces as the story progresses, and you begin to care about what happens to them as naturally as you would a real person. Their humanity is a stark contrast to the very idea the Overlords present. The action is non-stop, making the book incredibly hard to put down. The creatures and fights are described to a thrilling tee. In between chapters there are Archives, reflections of characters' pasts, Shade's thoughts, or what a camera placed around the city sees. This helps readers find a breaking point in all that action for the times when in fact, they must stop reading (like when you need to go to bed.) But then you can pick right up and be running with Ella, Drum, Ninde and of course Gold-Eye and their struggle to defeat the Overlords and save all the children still held prisoner in the Dorms, awaiting their Sad Birthday.
FadedPages More than 1 year ago
I first read this book as a freshman in high school and ten years later I still read it again from time to time. The story never gets old. It always manages to draw you in, scare/creep you out and make you want to read more!
PlumPudding More than 1 year ago
This was an enjoyable book! I wish I knew more about the Overlords and how they got there and everything about that, but it was still a good book to read. Also, I got bothered that Gold-Eye's character seemed to fade as the story went on. He seemed less of a "character" and more of a vessel for plot. Shade, on the contrary, grew stronger as a character as the book progressed, which was really nice to read. The concepts and everything were very fascinating, and I loved the little bits where the Overlords revealed a little bit of the opinions they had towards the children. I just wish I knew a little more about what happened--WHY everyone over 14 vanished. But all in all, I really enjoyed this book. The atmosphere was well-crafted (and well maintained, besides. No ill-timed jokes or anything) and it was very compelling. I recommend it. :)
Allie Michaud More than 1 year ago
I read this book when it first came out years ago and loved every moment of it. It still continues to be one of my favortie books!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hand's down, one of my all time favorite books. Garth Nix really instills the fear of being there in you as you read. I've already read this multiple times and still have yet to get bored. A must read in my opinion.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book. Should make a movie out of it!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didn't go into the book expecting it to be as good as it ended up being.
Guest More than 1 year ago
FREAKIN' AWESOME. Well at first I thought that I wasn't going to like it,but the description of the characeters and the scenes won me over. The bravery of the kids made me love them, the evil ways of the 'villians' made me hate them. What more could you want. This book made me escape from reality and I didn't want to come back until I knew what would happen next. It was a wild ride all the way to the end. I would defintly recommend this book to anyone and everyone who wants to take a break from the real world. This book was defintly a page turner.
Guest More than 1 year ago
way cool. Overlords come and use kids brains in robot creatures when they turn 14. its great. escapees have to unite to stop them, which sounds kind of stupid but it is NOT. best book ever. the main charachters name is gold-eye, which is awesome.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's too bad they only have five stars, because this book would get a 10 in my oppinion. A richly entertaining book that carries you through a mysterious world of scifi fantasy where except for the select few no one is over 14. This book was one of those that made me sit there for five hours nonstop reading til I finished. The very end, the vision is the best ending, a great way to wrap it up. It does mention two of the characters having sex but no details and it's there to show the how close the two characters are getting, so it's sutible for I'd say 12 and up. A great book all around. I give it a 10 out of 5.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is awesome! No matter how hard you try, this book can't be put down because it is so exciting. if you're into fiction, sci-fi, and all that jazz, then this is a must read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wow! This book has to be one of the greatest books I have ever read. It is wonderfully suspenseful and keeps you reading for hours and hours and hours. It has a wonderful storyline that keeps you interested through the whole thing!
Guest More than 1 year ago
when i found this book i felt like i had won the lottery(hehehe).this is my favorite book of all time!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This remains one of the most disturbing books I've ever read. Maybe it had to do with my age at the time -- I was 14 myself -- but I literally had nightmares for years later. I regret nothing. It's more than a good scare, though. I think one of the reasons it's so creepy is because of it's not the hero story you're expecting. It is gritty and gruesome and nearly hopeless. You really feel the cost of the disaster, not only to the characters personally, but to the entire world, the walk-ons who die horrible deaths, and even to the nameless monsters built out of kids' body parts. Only one other post-apocalyptic novel I've ever read comes close to being this bleak. Again, no regrets for reading it, though! It's fantastic. I also loved the way it used narratives and perspectives. Talk about a book that will stick with you.
BooksAplenty More than 1 year ago
Set in a future dystopia, where the Overlords have decreed that no human can live past their 14th birthday, four fugitive teens set out to set society back on track. Under the watchful eyes of their once-human mentor, Shade, they come face to face with all manner of evils. I really enjoy good dystopian fiction, but lately they all seem the same. Shade's Children was remarkably fresh and appropriately dark. The world of this book is the near-future, making the story terrifyingly believable. The story centers on the character of Shade, a former human now living in a complex computer server. Shade collects children who have escaped the hands of the Overlords. He trains these children to gather information on the Overlords in an attempt to overthrow them. These missions often result in death. This begs the question, "How much sacrifice is acceptable in the pursuit of freedom?" Character and back-story development emerge largely via interludes between each chapters. These include interviews with key characters, entries in Shade's journal, and records of video surveillance. Though these pieces annoyed me at first, but I quickly realized that they are vital and compelling elements of the story. I especially enjoyed the pieces that gave us insight into the true purpose of the Overlords. I absolutely loved Shade's Children. It even made me cry. The only thing that kept me from giving it a full 5 stars is that the ending was a bit too happily-ever-after for me. It reminded me of the last scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. 3 adjectives that describe this book: futuristic, gritty, action-packed
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When I read this, I was immediately draw the dark armosphere of the story. It was unlike any story i had ever read before. Garth Nix truely has a talent for whar he does.
Angypants More than 1 year ago
Possibly, if this book is read in these days of popular post-apocalyptic stories, one might be tempted to throw this one in with the "ah, someone read 'Hunger Games' and wrote a book" crowd. Well, actually, "Shade's Children" was published in 1997. And while it is about young people surviving deathly odds in a post apocalyptic type future, it is very much it's own wonderful, dark story. I wouldn't recommend it for young readers, though, or anyone that is too sensitive to, well, violence. There be monsters here. Creepy weird things that do not leave the people they encounter well off. That said, I love dark science fiction! I loved this story, and recommend it to anyone looking for a book that moves quickly and has a creepy, engrossing environment with good characters. Get moving, and get this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a really good book but it is a little dissorienting but it makes sense by the end.
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