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The Sky Inside

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Martin lives in a perfect world.

Every year a new generation of genetically-engineered children is shipped out to meet their parents. Every spring the residents of his town take down the snow they've stuck to their windows and put up flowers. Every morning his family gathers around their television and votes, like everyone else, for whatever matter of national importance the president has on the table. Today, it is the color of his drapes. It's...

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2008 Audio CD Brand new. Librarian's Choice & Collector's Favorite. Brand new complete & unabridged audio book in an elegant case [I will ship immediately]

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The Sky Inside

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Overview

Martin lives in a perfect world.

Every year a new generation of genetically-engineered children is shipped out to meet their parents. Every spring the residents of his town take down the snow they've stuck to their windows and put up flowers. Every morning his family gathers around their television and votes, like everyone else, for whatever matter of national importance the president has on the table. Today, it is the color of his drapes. It's business as usual under the protective dome of suburb HM1.

And it's all about to come crashing down.

Because a stranger has come to take away all the little children, including Martin's sister, Cassie, and no one wants to talk about where she has gone. The way Martin sees it, he has a choice. He can remain in the dubious safety of HM1, with danger that no one wants to talk about lurking just beneath the surface, or he can actually break out of the suburb, into the mysterious land outside, rumored to be nothing but blowing sand for miles upon miles.

Acclaimed author Clare B. Dunkle has crafted a fresh and fast-paced science-fiction thriller, one that challenges her characters — and her readers — to look closer at the world they take for granted.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Monserrat Urena
Martin lives in the suburb with his mom, dad, and little sister. But this is where normality ends. The suburb is an enclosed community within the protection of a large dome. Martin has never been outside its limits because the outside is an uninhabitable wasteland. Or so he has been told. His little sister Cassie is one of the "wonder babies," a genetically-engineered, child prodigy model. She is one of a series of children purchased by the inhabitants of the suburb. She and Martin are fully human and are separate child models created in a lab with specific traits. But unlike Martin the wonder babies have dangerous glitches. The children are far too inquisitive and far too self-sufficient for an enclosed world where blind acceptance and gratitude are the norm. As a result, the wonder babies are being taken away to a special school. But Martin cannot stand the idea of never seeing his little sister again, so he sets out to the find her outside the protection of the suburb. What he finds outside is life-altering. This book caught me from the beginning. The pace is quick and the atmosphere is disturbing in its seeming normality. Martin is a strong and likable character. The alternate world created by the author is filled with mystery. It pulled me to read on with the hope of finding some answers. And though this book remains a strong fantasy, sci-fi text, it lost my interest. It all started with the multi-purpose character of "Chip." A cyber-dog, he became the character that did anything and everything to keep the story going. If Martin fell into trouble, Chip magically developed the sudden ability to get him out of it. In spite of these weaknesses, this reviewer can still recommend thisimaginative book. Reviewer: Monserrat Urena
VOYA - Christina Fairman
Don't ask questions! We're the lucky ones. Thirteen-year-old Martin Glass has heard those words every day since arriving as an infant in suburb HM1. The neighborhood consists of identical homes underneath a giant blue dome, where an unseen government has mechanized life and death and everything in between to sterile precision. Surveillance is tacitly acknowledged, even though no one dares discuss it openly. Those who do ask questions end up on television game shows where executioners mete out punishment in the guise of entertainment. One day a stranger arrives to remove the genetically engineered "Wonder Babies" from the dome, including Martin's inquisitive six-year-old sister, as part of an ominous "product recall." Martin decides to do what few have ever done-he escapes HM1 to rescue his sister. With the assistance of his faithful robot dog, Martin discovers in the wilderness the truth about the dome and the brutality of the artificial environment he has left behind. Despite excessive allusions to the mind-numbing potential of technology, the novel successfully explores the dangers of despotism and the role that an uninformed citizenry can have in furthering oppression. Middle grade readers will connect readily with the well-written character of Martin, whose sensitive portrayal evokes a message of hope and optimism. The story is comparable in tone and content to the Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix and to Holes by Louis Sachar (Farrar Straus Giroux, 1998/VOYA December 1998). Reviewer: Christina Fairman
School Library Journal

Gr 5-8- A mediocre science-fiction novel from a wonderful fantasy writer. The setting, a domed suburb in some distant future, seems far too familiar and worn out. Like many books before it, The Sky Inside paints a bleak future filled with mind-numbed people going about their days. And, as always, there is one child filled with the curiosity to break through the mind freeze and find his way into adventure. Dunkle's setting and plot may be overdone and trite, but her characters show her true writing ability. Thirteen-year-old Martin, his A.I. dog, and his sister are well-rounded and thought-provoking characters filled with imagination and real emotions. Fans of science fiction may enjoy the story, even though they've probably read it before.-Lisa Marie Williams, East Gwillimbury Public Library, Holland Landing, Ontario

Kirkus Reviews
Martin's strictly regimented suburban life changes when he gets a robotic dog for his 13th birthday. In Martin's domed suburb, citizens watch game shows, show their patriotism through shopping and vote daily on such issues as the color of the president's drapes. The only disruption in their lives is the presence of the aggressively argumentative genius children who comprise the suburb's youngest generation. Martin's six-year-old sister Cassie is one such Wonder Baby, and he's frustrated with her constant questions. Bigotry against the Wonder Babies is on the rise, and it seems only Martin and his inexplicably intelligent dog are willing to defend them. With his dog's help, Martin discovers his suburb's dark secret. Though not everything makes sense (how exactly did Martin end up with a modified superdog?), Martin's quest makes for a solid, compelling entry in the isolated-dystopian-community genre. In a world well-stocked with genius children, the point-of-view focus through an ordinary boy with questionable free will provides a compelling shift from the expected. (Science fiction. 11-13)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780739362709
  • Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/25/2008
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged, 5 CDs, 6 hrs., 30 min.
  • Age range: 10 years

Meet the Author

Clare B. Dunkle is the author of the well-received Hollow Kingdom trilogy as well as the first volume in this story, The Sky Inside. She studied Russian and Latin at Trinity University, and also holds a a master's degree in library science from Indiana University. She was a member of the American Library Association and served on committees in ALCTS, ACRL, and LITA. She lives with her family in Texas.

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Read an Excerpt

The Sky Inside

By Clare B. Dunkle
Ginee Seo Books
Copyright © 2008 Clare B. Dunkle
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781416924227


One

The first day of spring had come to the suburb, bringing its subtle but unmistakable signs. Martin noticed them right away as he left his house that morning. The recording that played through the neighborhood speakers was different, for one thing. It had lost its spooky, desolate sound. And wiry old Mr. LaRue was kneeling on the sidewalk next door, peeling the glittering snowflakes off his big picture window and sticking a line of pink and yellow flowers there instead.

Cassie wanted to watch, so Martin loitered on the sidewalk to let her. He gazed down the curving row of redbrick houses that framed the circular street, hooked together so that the garage wall of one became the bedroom wall of the next. The houses had identical windows, identical doors, and identical garage doors. At each garage, the pale gray sidewalk slanted down to the dark gray street so that scooter wheels could roll over it. Then the curb rose again and became level until the next garage: dip, rise, dip, rise, all around the edge of the street, like a perfect piecrust.

In the center of the circle lay the park, with its wide green-gravel spaces, dusty baseball field, bonded-rubber jogging track, and brightly colored play structures. The exact middle was a fishpond where Dad went to practicecasting. Once, this park had seemed like a wonderland to Martin, and it had only recently ceased to be a marvel to his six-year-old sister. Now it was just the park: a good thing, to be sure, but a place of limited joys.

"See," directed Mr. LaRue, pausing in his work to glance up at them, "see, these are roses, and these are daffodils." He unstuck an orangey yellow flower from the vinyl sheet and carefully smoothed it onto the window glass. "They're for spring. It's spring now, you know."

"The vernal equinox," Cassie agreed.

Martin was bored. He had seen a number of springs arrive, had heard the speakers change their music and watched the plastic flowers go up on front windows across the neighborhood. None of it interested him anymore. Just this year, he had begun to grow at a prodigious rate, zooming past his peers, looking down on their hair parts and cowlicks. Not one ounce of weight, it would seem, had come with this growth, so he was beginning to resemble an Elasto-doll or a spaghetti noodle. His hair was such a dark shade of brown that everyone called it black, and his eyes were such a dark hazel that they looked brown. Only when he was excited did flecks of green and gold light up in them, but that didn't happen very often. Usually, Martin was assessing life cautiously from behind lowered eyelids: thinking of ways to escape class, thinking of plausible excuses for not doing schoolwork, or thinking of the millions of things he would rather do than sit in class and do schoolwork. No spark of color lit his eyes then. "Stop looking sullen!" his teacher would snap.

Martin sighed and tilted his head back, gazing at the network of steel girders that held up the immense dome enclosing their suburb. The vast metal structure was painted pale blue with big white splotches wherever the square golden skylights didn't intrude. Clouds, his granny had called those white blotches. He didn't see why they needed a special name.

High above him, a tiny inconspicuous figure crawled along one of the steel beams. Blue against the enormous blue ceiling, a tool bot was checking the rivets. As it crawled onto a cloud, the robotic form stood out clearly for a few seconds. Then it paused, probably to adjust its settings, and turned white, blending in once more.

A cloudy bot was harder to see than a blue one. Martin lost it against the faint lines and seams of the dome. He felt a tug at his sleeve. Cassie wanted his attention.

"Yard work isn't for everybody," Mr. LaRue was saying, "but I take pride in it. Got my lawn all finished." He gestured at a strip of green plastic that fringed the bottom of his house's red brick. "Bennett's still got his autumn leaves up on his window. It wouldn't kill some people to do a little work around here."

"Today is Martin's birthday," Cassie said. "It's nice that the speakers are playing something pleasant."

The old man looked scornful. "Birthday's got nothing to do with it." He used a razor blade to remove the last traces of a snowflake's outline. "It's the spring song," he said, pointing his razor at the nearest hidden speaker. "That's a robin, that's what that is."

Cassie tilted her head to listen to the jaunty, careless notes. "I don't know how that can be a song," she said. "There isn't a tune. It's different every time."

"Don't contradict me!" said Mr. LaRue. "Don't you smart kids learn any manners? If I say it's a song, it's a song, and if I say it's a robin, it's a robin!"

"Let's get to school," Martin interrupted, catching Cassie by the strap on the top of her pink backpack and starting to pull her away.

"Wait! What's a robin?" she wanted to know. "Is it some kind of woodwind instrument? Or is this another one of those concepts that no one understands anymore?"

Mr. LaRue dropped his sticker book onto the concrete and glared at her. "You damn freaks!" he barked. "Trust you to take the pleasure out of spring!"

Cassie stepped behind her brother, and Martin allowed her to hold his hand. "Damn? I don't know what that word means," she whispered. "Martin, do you know?"

"It means time to go," he said. Then he hauled her away down the sidewalk.

"But what does it mean?" she asked again as they turned the corner and walked away from the park.

"It's just a bad word. It means you made him mad." She hadn't asked him about freaks, of course. She had learned that word long ago.

The suburb was laid out in concentric circles, like a dartboard. They crossed curving street after curving street of tidy brick houses with identical windows, doors, and garages. On each street, the color changed. All the houses were tan, or all pink, or mustard yellow. Martin passed them without seeing them.

Freaks, he thought. The word was as much a part of Cassie's life as the steel dome above them.

The ads had started running on mid-morning television the summer after Martin's fourth birthday. WONDER BABIES are here! they announced. Be the first family on your block to raise a WONDER BABY! Even as young as he was, Martin had been aware of Mom and Dad's interest. Mom had already talked about having another baby. Now Dad wanted one too.

Never had the arrival of the stork brought such excitement. Overflowing with charm, brimming with intelligence, Wonder Babies were like nothing the suburb had seen before. But that didn't turn out to be a good thing.

Wonder Babies didn't wait around to be raised. They got involved in their upbringing, wanted to know about their feeding schedules, and read voraciously before the age of two. Worst of all, Wonder Babies -- or the Exponential Generation, as they preferred to be called -- wouldn't stop asking embarrassing questions. No amount of time-outs, missed snacks, or spankings could break them of this awful habit.

Three years ago, when the first class of the Exponential Generation had reached kindergarten, their teacher had quit within the week. No one would stay in their classrooms and put up with the deluge of questions their bizarre genius produced. But that didn't matter. They were driven to learn. They went to school anyway, dividing up the duties and team-teaching themselves.

Martin eyed the thin little girl whom he was attempting to steer toward school. She was wearing a stretchy shorts set of bright magenta, accessorized with a purple sweater. She had donned one pink sock and one purple sock this morning with her white sneakers, and her wrists sparkled with various pieces of childish jewelry in rhinestone and plastic. Her blue eyes and short golden curls bobbing in every direction made Cassie look downright perfect, like a living doll -- even he had to admit that. He couldn't understand how the neighbors could say such cruel things to her face. He knew how he could, of course, but that was different.

"This word list is so inadequate," Cassie said, typing away on her handheld. "It doesn't have damn or robin. What is a robin, anyway? Does anybody know?"

Martin hesitated. Granny had whispered things to him when he was very young, while they sat together in the bright, glorious wonderland park of his earliest memories. Granny had told him of small, quick creatures that whirred through the air like toy planes, creatures that were as soft to the touch as a handful of yarn. But Cassie couldn't keep a secret, and everyone knew the walls had ears.

"I dunno," he said. "Stop asking stuff or I'll tell Mom."

They reached the school beside the outermost ring of streets and joined their classmates on the noisy playground. Cassie went off to assemble with the other members of the Exponential Generation under the guidance of Jimmy, their eight-year-old leader. Martin threaded through the knots of students, looking around for his friends.

"Over here!"

Matt and David were waiting for him with almost identical grins. Matt immediately tried to grab him in a headlock. As they thrashed about, bumping into other students and raising cries of annoyance, Martin felt hands in his backpack.

"Let go of me, you doofus!"

He flung off Matt, who bounced against a larger classmate, received a smack to the head, and ricocheted back into Martin without losing a millimeter of his grin. Frowning, Martin turned away and set his backpack on the ground to examine its contents. Nothing was gone, but his handheld was flashing random patterns.

"You messed with this," he accused.

Matt was already overcome with glee, making noises like a badly tuned scooter, but David gazed up at him without a trace of guilt. "Uh-oh," he said. "Looks to me like your handheld has a bug."

"A bug..." Martin looked at the dancing lights for a few seconds, pressing combinations of buttons. Then he turned the handheld over, tweaked off the back cover, and studied the circuit board. There it was: an extra computer chip, colored bright purple. He pried it off, and the multipronged chip morphed in his hand. Now a small bug crawled across his palm, a purple bug with gold legs. David and Matt whooped in triumph and celebrated by punching each other.

"Sweet!" said Martin, examining the metallic computer bug. He put it back onto the circuit board so he could watch it freeze into chipdom and then pried it off again. "I wanted some, but my dad wouldn't buy them. He said they could damage the wrong kinds of machines."

"Nah," said David importantly, scooping up his chip. "These only work on little stuff -- it says so right in the ad."

The bell rang, and the students squeezed into the main hall. The three friends allowed the force of moving bodies to carry them along.

"We put one on David's cat Cinder -- gross! Shorted out the whole simulation."

"She turned into a big lump like silver Jell-O, and now she won't come near me. Here, I'll show you," David said. Chip in hand, he pushed through the crowd over to the Wonder Babies. Martin and Matt knew what was on his mind. Only one student brought a pet to school. Only one child answered to no one.

Jimmy stood at the door of the second-grade classroom, seeing the first group of Wonder Babies to its destination. He ticked off the roll on his handheld as children filed past him into the room. His pet rat, white with black patches, clung to his shoulder.

"Look out for a crash," David said, shaking the purple bug onto the rat.

The big piebald rat felt the bug crawl across its shoulder and scratched with its back paw. Then it seized the bug and sat up to sniff at it. Jimmy craned his neck to see and took the purple chip away. "I saw those on television," he remarked.

Staring, David took back his chip. Matt was punching him. "What happened, man?" Matt demanded in a whisper. David punched him back.

"You -- man!" David stammered. "You -- I mean, it -- man! That thing's real!"

Jimmy walked his next group of charges to their room. Martin and his friends followed. "Hey, I want one too," Matt said in excitement. "Where do you buy a real rat?"

"You don't buy them," Jimmy answered. "I caught him in the warehouse area when he was a baby -- Melanie, get rid of that gum."

"Can it change into anything?" asked Martin. "Like, different kinds of rats?"

"Or a rapid-fire slingshot?" suggested David, eyeing the long bare tail.

"No," Jimmy said. "He stays a rat. Brent and Margery, you start the reading lesson, and I'll be back in half an hour. Kindergarten Exponents, go to your room, and I'll be there to take roll in a minute."

Distracted from the rat, Martin speculated briefly on what it would be like to be eight years old and a teacher. Judging from the worried expression on Jimmy's face, it wasn't much fun.

"Look," Jimmy said as the little children filed by him, "Patches is alive. He was born, he grew up, and in another year, he'll die."

Death. Martin had a confused vision of a tiny black railcar coming to retrieve the furry body, just as one did when a person died. "Wow," he murmured. "That's very cool." He wondered about Granny's birds and clouds. Did they die too, like rats and people? How did that work?

"I'll buy one from you," Matt insisted.

"Yeah, we'll buy him," David said. "How much is he?"

Jimmy paused in the doorway, looking away from them.

He's disappointed in us, Martin thought. I wonder what we did.

"Rats," said Jimmy finally, "are not for sale." Then he shut the door.

"Stupid kid, stuck with a toy that can't do anything," David said, turning away.

"He made us late. Now we'll have extra work," Matt grumbled. "That stupid freak!"

Trailing behind them, Martin reluctantly entered his classroom. The sight of its familiar green walls crushed the happy thought of rats out of his mind. Pea green. Vomit green. A very appropriate color.

School was the usual interminable torment. In silence, the students worked exercises that had been fed into their handhelds, downloading the results to the school computer every half hour. In silence, Martin's teacher paced up and down, gazing out the window at the deserted playground. The computer had given him no lecture to read to them that day, so his only duty was to call time at the end of each exercise. But the handhelds did that anyway, a clock in the upper left-hand corner ticking down the time remaining before the termination of each drill.

Martin watched the seconds depart, scuffing his feet on the floor to provide a distraction. Across his screen paraded an endless succession of sentences to diagram, math problems to solve, science questions to answer, spelling errors to correct. When he daydreamed, the handheld beeped at him, and his teacher came over to shake him. By the end of the day, rigor mortis had set in, and his brain held no thoughts at all.

"It's your birthday," Cassie reminded him on the way home. "What present do you think you'll get?"

"I dunno," Martin said vaguely. He was still coming back to life.

"What do you want to get?" pursued Cassie, not for the first or even the tenth time that week.

"I dunno," Martin said again. "I guess Mom could give me back my jeans."

Cassie hooted. "Those old things! Everyone could see your underwear! I can't believe Mom had to sneak them out from under your pillow."

"I knew she was after them," Martin muttered. "They were just the way I like them."

"Oh, come on, what do you want?"

"Nothing, I guess." Martin was thirteen now, he reminded himself, not some dumb little kid anymore. Toys were for kids, and the things he was mildly interested in, like David's bug, he knew his parents wouldn't give him. But the sorts of things his father and mother gave to each other -- puzzles, hobby kits, clothes, grown-up junk -- he couldn't imagine ever wanting.

"You can't want nothing," insisted Cassie. She took his hand and tugged on it as she skipped and hopped in excitement. "There are so many things you don't have. Fun things! Pretty things too! I wish it were my birthday."

"That's just kid stuff, Cass," he said. "If you were old like me, you'd understand." And he stiffened his arm so she could hop higher.

Martin and Cassie reached the park. Crates and bags teetered in wobbly piles on the sidewalk in front of their house, and their father stood in the middle of the chaos outside their open garage.

Dad was comfortable-looking and a little soft, like his favorite recliner chair, with a cheerful face and a patch of long grizzled hairs that he carefully combed over his bald spot. Something was wrong today, though, Martin could tell. Dad's hairs were disarranged, and his movements were impatient. Maybe he and Mom had had a fight.

"You're home early," Martin said. "What's up?"

"I got the trash shipments out the door ahead of schedule," Dad said. "And the new scooter came in today. I thought I'd try it out."

Martin spotted Dad's new scooter leaning against the house behind a stack of Young Scientist in the Kitchen kits. Dad had been talking about his scooter for the last two weeks. He should look happier about its arrival.

"I can't even squeeze it in here." Dad gestured hopelessly toward the garage. "I don't know why they didn't make these things with more storage space!"

"We could move the volleyball stuff," Martin suggested. "We never play. Or we could throw out Mom's old weights." Balancing several boxes of Cassie's baby clothes on top of the foosball table, they wedged the scooter in at last.

They burst into the dining room from the garage. Mom was there, hurrying from cooker to table. Mom always hurried, every movement decisive and efficient. She drank those hide-ous no-dye-added energy drinks all day, and they obviously worked.

"It's the birthday boy!" she cried, and Martin was subjected to a smothering hug and kiss. "I tried out my new cake-decorating module today. The frosting is 'a mystery flavor that will keep your company guessing for hours.' You'll have to tell me what you think."

As they ate their dinner and the enigmatic birthday cake, Martin kept an eye on his father. Dad didn't eat much, which was unusual. He didn't say much either, but that was typical. Cassie monopolized the conversation as always, telling them about her day.

"We finished Peter Pan," she said. "I thought it was well written, with vivid characterizations, even if the setting was a bit fantastical. Peter is a lawyer working for an agency that investigates companies for tax evasion. He takes on Captain Hook, CEO of the Jolly Roger shipping line, for failing to report stolenmerchandise. With the help of the Lost Boys Accounting Firm, they finally get Captain Hook dead to rights." She paused long enough to take a drink of milk.

"My favorite character was Tinkerbell," she continued. "Tinkerbell works in advertising, so she can do magic. Captain Hook tried to make Peter Pan lose his job, so Tinkerbell ran a thirty-second spot on television about how great Peter was. That saved him, but then she was going to get fired. But then she said she thought she could keep her job if enough little children believed in advertising, and Peter Pan asked us to clap our hands if we did. And we clapped, and then she just got a verbal warning from her supervisor, and her biggest account was renewed for two more years."

"Reading Peter Pan in first grade!" said Mom, shaking her head. "And that's not what happened to Tinkerbell when I read it."

"What happened to your Tinkerbell, Mommy?" asked Cassie.

Mom shot her a stern glance. "Don't ask questions!"

This looked like the start of one of Mom's lectures, and those generally ended with Cassie running off in tears. Martin decided it was time for a diversion. "Great cake, Mom," he said. "I think it's banana. Anyway, something like that."

"My birthday boy!" Mom smiled at him. "You certainly are quiet tonight -- you haven't said a word about presents. Not so long ago, you would have been begging to open your gift before the morning vote. Cassie, go get it for me." His sister trotted from the room.

Okay, this is the big moment, Martin told himself. Remember to look excited. Then a large object struck him in the chest, knocking his chair to the ground. Something heavy proceeded to dance on him. He gave it a shove and got a look at it. A big golden-coated collie was attacking him in a frenzy of affection, licking his face and yelping ecstatically.

Martin became aware of the sound of his own voice adding to the din. "STOP DOING THAT RIGHT NOW!"

The dog stopped whining and wriggling. Ears forward, it considered him. Then it flopped over onto its back and lay with its paws in the air, inviting him to rub its white tummy.

"'The Alldog,'" read Cassie from the side of a big cardboard box. "'Large or small, sleek or fuzzy -- all the dogs you ever wanted rolled into one. Contents: one Alldog, owner's manual, and reset chip. Runs on two Everlite long-life rechargeable batteries. Batteries not included.'"

"He's all yours, son," Dad said, helping Martin to his feet. "They had us send in your photo and a dirty sock and programmed him right at the factory."

The collie, unable to contain itself any longer, flipped right side up and began swimming forward on its belly. When its nose rested on Martin's sneaker, it toppled sideways and began running in place. Its warm brown eyes never left his face for a second.

"'The Alldog,'" Cassie continued reading, "'is the perfect pet and particularly good with children. Do not place your Alldog in a strong magnetic field. Some assembly required.'"

This is just great, thought Martin. Here I am, thirteen years old, and Mom and Dad give me a dog. A dog! Everybody knows dogs are for little kids.

He thanked his parents for the degrading toy and took himself off to his bedroom. He was used to Cassie tagging along and invading his privacy. This time, the dog tagged along too. Martin turned on his light, tossed his school stuff onto the bed, turned on his plasma lamp, turned off the light so that the plasma lamp would show up better, and sank into his beanbag chair to consider his misfortune. The collie tried to join him in the beanbag, forcing him to retreat to his desk chair instead.

Since the plasma lamp didn't illuminate anything, but only brought an odd green and purple glow to the room, Cassie turned on the light again before she plopped down on his bed. "You aren't allowed in my room," Martin pointed out, but he was only observing formalities. At the moment, he wanted an audience.

"You don't like your birthday present," accused Cassie, tossing the Alldog box onto his pillow. The collie's ears lifted, and it raised its head from Martin's knee to fix him with a look of concern.

"I don't want some stupid toy," he said. "That thing's not real. Heck, it's not even a dog. It's just a circuit board attached to a big wad of silver Jell-O. Here, I'll show you. Give me that reset chip." And he got up to poke around in the box. The dog let out a sharp yelp and dove under the bed. By the time Martin had the chip, he couldn't find his pet.

"I don't see where it could have gone," he said, rummaging under the bed. "There's no room down here for something that big." After several fruitless minutes, he tried a different technique. "Dog, come!" he commanded, imitating his mother. "And I mean right now!"

A little cream-colored Chihuahua came crawling out from under the bed, whip tail curled between skinny legs. Its large ears lay against its round head like crumpled Kleenex, and tiny whimpers rose from it at every breath. Its enormous brown eyes practically held tears.

"Oh, how cute!" Cassie cried, and it immediately hopped onto the bed to take shelter with her. "Poor baby! Look, you scared it."

Martin watched the abject creature hide itself in his sister's arms. Then he flung the chip back into the box and reclaimed his beanbag chair. He felt even more annoyed for giving way to pity. David and Matt hadn't. They had reset David's cat.

"I'm not scaring anything," he grumbled. "Computer chips don't have feelings."

The Chihuahua jumped down and came slinking over to him, trying to make friends. "You look ridiculous," he told it. The little dog sat down in the middle of the floor, head hanging and sail-like ears splayed out sideways. It looked as if it had no friends left in the world.

Meanwhile, Cassie was at the box again, pulling out several pieces of Styrofoam in search of the owner's manual. Soon she was tapping buttons on it, bringing up the search screen.

"I think they do have feelings," she said. "Listen: 'The Alldog was developed out of a research project to make tool bots seem friendly. This innovative toy begins with a basic tool bot computer module, layered with an artificial intelligence engine. The AI engine, instructed in canine behavior, is ready to explore its environment with you. It wants to be a good dog. Your responses, as well as day-to-day situations, provide a unique learning environment. As the AI engine seeks success and attempts to avoid failure, it becomes a true individual. No other dog in the world will be like yours.'"

"That's good," Martin muttered. "Just look at the skinny little thing! Give me the -- Whoa!"

The Chihuahua was expanding rapidly, like a dog-shapedballoon. In a couple of seconds, a veritable monster lolled beside the beanbag, appearing to take up most of the bedroom. It stood up and towered over Martin.

"Look out!" he cried.

Cassie pressed keys and reviewed several pictures. "It's an Irish wolfhound," she told him. "That's what I'm saying: this computer does have feelings -- sort of. It knows you're its master, and the AI part of it wants to succeed. Since you didn't like it as a little dog, it made itself into a big dog."

The wolfhound gazed quizzically down at Martin, its long tail waving gently. "No!" Martin said in what he hoped was a firm, masterful voice. "Bad dog for getting bigger than I am!"

The huge shape crumpled immediately, and the rough coat smoothed out to a satin gloss. In seconds, a trim, compact beagle stood where the massive wolfhound had been. It had a black back, a brown face, and four dazzling white feet. "Okay, that's better," Martin told it, and it danced with pleasure, its white-tipped tail slashing to and fro.

"Jimmy taught us about these tool bot engines," Cassie said. "They're pretty smart, but they're kind of simple at the same time. They have one or two big goals, and they dedicate all their resources to meeting those goals. We're more complicated in what we want to do."

Martin watched as the beagle sprang about, trying to attract his attention. "So all this thing wants is for me to like it?"

"'Loyalty to the master,'" read Cassie from the owner's manual, "'is the single trait common to every type of dog.' You're the master. It's programmed to want whatever you want."

"Sit!" Martin ordered the beagle, and it promptly obeyed. "Beg! Roll over! Up! Down! Play dead!" Silky ears flapping, the little animal performed flawlessly. "Find the square root of sixty-four!" The beagle hesitated for a second and then jumped onto the bed to tap the keys of Martin's handheld.

"Look at that," Martin scoffed. "Real dogs don't do math!" And he headed to the bathroom with his latest game cartridge to find a little peace and quiet.

When he came back, Cassie was in her room. Supportive snatches of dialogue from her Tell Me About Your Day diary module drifted out from under her closed door. Martin turned and tiptoed down the hall. At this hour, his parents were usually discussing their day -- or their children. Over the years, he had heard many things worth knowing. He stopped outside the living room, where a jewelry show was displaying the newest sparkles. Dad's voice was barely audible against it.

"I saw the first of them today, Tris," he said. "Coming off the packet from Central."

"The first whats?" Mom asked absently. Your friends won't know it's not a zirconia, the television assured her.

"You know! Just like last time. They'll be everywhere in a few days. I wish we knew what happened to -- " He gave a sigh. "I just hope nothing turns up."

"Walt, what are you talking about?"

Martin heard the recliner creak as Dad shifted. "Inspection!" he hissed. "There, I said it. You had to make me say it!"

"Oh dear!" murmured Mom.

"Oh good, you mean," Dad said morosely. "You know the walls have ears."

Copyright © 2008 by Clare B. Dunkle



Continues...


Excerpted from The Sky Inside by Clare B. Dunkle Copyright © 2008 by Clare B. Dunkle. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 24, 2012

    My review on The Sky Inside. I would give this book 5 out of 5

    My review on The Sky Inside.

    I would give this book 5 out of 5 stars because it was very interesting. The book talks about what could happen in the future of the world. This book is about a thirteen year old, Martin Glass, that lives under a dome. Everyone tells him that he is lucky to be able to live under the dome. They said that the outside world is to dangerous to live in. Martin has a mom, a dad, and a younger sister, Cassie. Cassie is a wonder baby. Wonder babies are specially engeneered, for their parent's wants and needs. All the houses in the dome are similar and everything is normal in the suburb. Until a man came to the suburb in a boxcar. The boxcar is the only way to get in or out of the suburb. The man takes all the yonger wonder babies including Martin's sister. The man said that he was taking the wonder babies to a special school somewhere outside of the dome. Martin was mad that everyone, in the dome, because they just excepted the idea that a man took all the wonder babies. Martin decided to leave the dome and to save his sister. Martin got out with the help of his robotic dog. If you want to learn more about what happens next then read the book! I recommend this book to any young adult reader. I would recommend it for them because this book has lots of interesting adventures. It makes you want to read more and more. Every chapter you get to builds suspence to the reader. Also This book is about the future. It uses robots and many other cool and interestying things. Many young adults like reading science fiction. They also like futuristic machines and robots.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 17, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Seems interesting enough.

    But I don't understand how an ebook could be more expensive than a hardcover copy of the same story.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2012

    Dissapointment.

    The idea was very interesting itself, but I was sad to see that the author did not do a great job on writing it. The beginning was interesting, but as the novel prgressed I felt less and less interested. I couldn't even finish the book because I got so bored. I didn't understad what was supposed to be happening, and why the author had to describe every tiny detail.

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  • Posted July 19, 2011

    Great Potential and unfolding plot--needs a sequel!

    From the beginning the story is very engrossing, building an excellent plot...but the ending is ponderous (spoiler alerts) Who exactly did Martin's Father meet with and what is the nature of that authority? Who made the AllDog and what is their agenda? How many models are their beyond dish 14? etc. I enjoyed the questions of citizenship and consumerism raised by this book and I think these could be further developed; leading to an excellent contemplation by not only teens but also adults. This book really needs a part two to complete the journey! A resolution would increase my ratings dramatically. BTW there is NO reason the NOOK version should be so expensive!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 25, 2013

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