Shade's Children

Shade's Children

4.5 122
by Garth Nix

View All Available Formats & Editions

The Key to Survival
Rests in the Hands of
Shade's Children

In a futuristic urban wasteland, evil Overlords have decreed that no child shall live a day past his fourteenth birthday. On that Sad Birthday, the child is the object of an obscene harvest resulting in the construction of a machinelike creature whose sole purpose is to kill.

The mysterious Shade

See more details below


The Key to Survival
Rests in the Hands of
Shade's Children

In a futuristic urban wasteland, evil Overlords have decreed that no child shall live a day past his fourteenth birthday. On that Sad Birthday, the child is the object of an obscene harvest resulting in the construction of a machinelike creature whose sole purpose is to kill.

The mysterious Shade -- once a man, but now more like the machines he fights -- recruits the few children fortunate enough to escape. 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 the children get, the more ruthless Shade seems to become ...

Editorial Reviews

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
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).
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.
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.

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.”

Read More

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sold by:
Sales rank:
File size:
923 KB
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.

Read More

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.”

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >