HOW WILD WOULD IT BE TO BUILD ON AN EIGHTH CONTINENT?
Rick and Evie Lane believe that the eighth continent will be theirs to rule forever. There’s just one problem: global rule-maker Winterpole won’t let anyone move there!
Now, the Lane family must rush to create hospitals, homes, schools, and (shocker!) government buildings to prove that their continent is fit for human habitation. But the Lanes aren’t the only ones engaged in this race for space. Condo Corp secret CEO Vesuvia Piffle recognizes this as her opportunity to finally snag the eighth continent for herself. If she can knock down enough of the Lanes’ buildings and construct perfect, pink, plastic ones in her image, the eighth continent might just finally be hers to make all sugary sweet and spider-free.
The Lanes will need to use every resource at their disposal to ensure that their precious eighth continent remains as natural—and wild—as they are. Just as it was born to be.
BUILD IT - RUN IT - RULE IT
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Follow Matt on Twitter @themattlondon and build your own eighth continent at 8thContinentBooks.com!
Read an Excerpt
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Rick Lane watched the sky. Something in his quick-thinking, hyper-developed brain knew—today was going to be a big day.
All around him, workers bustled about his family’s settlement, carting wheelbarrows full of dirt and rubble. Four-legged robots hauled sheet metal on their backs. When the wind picked up, Rick tasted the slightly salty ocean air that felt so familiar to his new home, the eighth continent.
The boy stood at the end of his block, where there was an empty and expectant circle of dirt. In the middle of the circle was a deep hole, a foundation, but Rick’s eyes never left the cerulean expanse above his head. He considered each cloud, waiting for The Big Day to begin.
“Rick!” A warm, familiar voice called out to him. He turned and saw his mother walking toward him. Beside her was the seven-foot-tall crow 2-Tor, Rick’s formerly-a-robot friend and protector, who, on a recent adventure, had been transformed into a real-life talking bird. Such had been the power of the Eden Compound, a chemical substance designed by Rick’s father that had also turned the Great Pacific Garbage Patch into this very land that Rick now loved.
2-Tor clacked his beak. “I say, Richard, you are looking quite ready to catch the worm this morning.”
“I am, 2-Tor. I am!” Rick pumped his fists in the air, doing a victory dance like the fighters in the video game Crazy Combat when they defeated opponents. “It’s a big day! You know what’s happening today, right?”
“Though my memory banks lack the efficiency of their formerly artificial intelligence, I do seem to recall a certain milestone scheduled for today.”
“Is it the anniversary of when we cleaned up the stain?” asked Rick’s mother. She was almost right. In a few days it would be six months since Rick and his family had used the eighth continent as a giant sponge to soak up an ink stain floating in the ocean. Governments all over the world had sent letters of appreciation and gifts of gratitude to the Lanes. But that wasn’t the big news.
“Nope! That’s not it!”
“Well, don’t make us guess, honey!” His mom smiled affectionately.
Rick cheered, “Today’s the day Dad brings the mansion from Geneva!”
Bang! The door to one of the portable metal buildings that lined the block blew open, and a ten-year-old girl appeared in an oversized T-shirt and nylon shorts. Her black hair was a chaotic mane that she tried to wrestle into a ponytail as she ran barefoot down the dirt road past more sleep shelters, still in her pajamas. “Dad’s bringing the house today? Awesome! Is he here yet? Can I see it?”
“Evie, go put on some shoes!” Mom’s eyes bulged halfway out of her head. “I’m going to need to disinfect your feet with a mop!”
But Rick’s sister, Evie, was not about to turn around for a pair of shoes. She got right up in Rick’s face. “Well? Where is he? Why didn’t you tell me Dad was coming back today?”
Rick sighed, adjusting his glasses. “I did tell you, Evie, like five or six times. But you just don’t pay attention. You’re always off exploring the jungle instead of helping us around the settlement.”
“Nuh-uh! I always pay attention!”
2-Tor cleared his throat. “Actually, Evelyn, I seem to recall Rick mentioning your father’s itinerary to you on multiple occasions.”
Evie turned. “Sorry, 2-Tor, did you say something?”
2-Tor sighed. “No, miss. Pay this bird no mind at all.”
Before they could continue the dispute, the high-pitched whine of hover engines filled Rick’s ears. High above them, the Roost appeared. Rick had missed his hovership, the flying tree that had gotten him and Evie out of so many jams. It was good to see the old girl again.
But today, the Roost had brought a friend. Dangling from long tethers attached to the roots of the tree hung their old home, Lane Mansion. It was a tall, silver house shaped like the outstretched wing of a bird. Morning sunlight glimmered off the building’s surface.
Rick couldn’t wait to get back in his old room and sleep in his own bed. It would be nice to have the whole family together again, instead of living in their own separate sleep shelters.
Waaaark!!! While the Roost hovered above them, a cardinal swooped down from one of the branches of the flying tree and landed at Rick’s feet. The bird had the handle of a small pail in its beak.
“Oh, hey, Red!” Rick gave the bird a scratch on top of its head and picked up the pail. “What have you got for us?”
Inside the pail was a black boxy device that looked like a video game controller. Rick recognized it as an infrared piloting remote he had always wanted to get his hands on for its power and versatility. Also in the pail was a handwritten note from his father. He started to unroll the paper, but Evie snatched it out of his hands.
While Mom shouted at her and 2-Tor lectured about keeping her hands to herself, Evie read the note aloud: “Dear kids, I’m home! But unfortunately the nav-computer is totally shot. I was trying to cook some marshmallow taquitos in the microwave and blew out most of the Roost’s electrical systems. You’ll have to guide me in with this. See you soon! Love, Dad. PS—Do either of you like carbon on your taquitos?”
Rick held tightly to the remote in his hands, partly because he wanted to make his dad proud and partly because he assumed Evie was about to try to snatch the remote away.
“Okay, everyone, stand back.” Rick switched on the targeting remote and established a connection with the Roost. He pushed on one of the joysticks, and the hovership swayed to the side. Perfect. It responded just like the flightsim video game on his pocket tablet.
“Wait, Rick!” Evie whined. “I want to do it. You always get to do all the cool technical stuff.”
“Stop it, Evie. I have the controller.”
She reached for him, tickling his ribs. As Rick doubled over giggling, Evie snatched away the controller. She pushed down on the joystick. The Roost and mansion dropped like a falling icicle.
“Evie! Give it back.”
She gave him an accusing look. “What, don’t you trust me?”
“Well, yes, but—”
“Good! Whee!” She played with the controls so that the Roost did a soaring lap around the settlement, zooming over the quick-assemble shelters and the heads of the workers. They had built a quaint little village in the six months since they had rooted the eighth continent to the ocean floor, but there was still a lot to do. Buildings needed to be built, farms needed to be farmed, and new technologies to rapidly improve the continent had to be researched. Everyone had a job, even Evie, who hosted meetings to make sure all the workers and scientists had their voices heard. Rick had primarily been working with a team of landscapers to cut away the dense jungles that covered much of the southeastern quarter of the continent, where Professor Doran’s fast-forming flora had flourished—a necessary sacrifice to ensure that the settlement had room to grow.
Professor Doran was an old friend and teacher of Rick’s parents, and he had helped them root the continent six months ago. He had also brought the seeds for millions of plants to cover the vast, blank surface of the continent with different habitats. Rick missed Professor Doran’s supersized plants and funny stories about their parents when they were younger. But most of all he missed the professor’s young assistant, Sprout Sanchez. Sprout could hog-tie haricot verts faster than anyone Rick had ever met, and he had set world records on multiple Game Zinger games.
The Roost zoomed over Rick’s head, buzzing the settlement once more. Evie cackled gleefully. Rick let out an irritated growl. If Sprout had been there to see Evie acting this crazy, he would not have been pleased.
Come to think of it, Sprout would probably be hooting and hollering, asking to have a turn dive-bombing the worker robots with the hanging house.
“Okay, Evie,” Rick said, finally having had enough. “Quit playing. We have to lower the mansion into the foundation.”
“Fine, fine.” Evie brought the Roost around for a final loop of the settlement and returned it to hover mode over the dirt pit.
“Now let me have it,” Rick insisted, reaching for the controller.
Evie pushed down hard on the joystick. The hovership dropped a hundred feet and then froze in place. The mansion swung wildly from side to side. Evie said, “No! It’s my job. Let me help.”
“But I know how to do this!” Rick said.
“So do I!”
“Kids!” Mom shouted over the noisy screams of the two children and the hover engines. “Don’t fight.”
The Roost dropped lower as Evie eased the base of the mansion closer to the foundation. It was nearly in place, but Rick could see that her aim was off. She was lowering the mansion too fast, and she wasn’t going to fit it into the hole perfectly. Disaster was about to strike.
“Evie, wait! Give it to me. You’re going to mess it up!” Rick grabbed for the controller.
“No!” Evie shrieked and yanked the controller away.
Her hand slipped. The mansion thudded against the side of the foundation. The tethers snapped, and the Lane family’s beloved house toppled over like a felled tree. It smashed into the ground and crumbled into many pieces. The metal and rubble and all their family treasures spilled across the dirt like a devastated piñata.
“Look what you did!” Rick and Evie screamed at each other.
“Me? It was your fault!” they both retorted.
So angry it looked like her joints had locked, Mom stomped over to Rick and his sister, pried the two apart, ripped the controller from Evie’s fingers, and guided the Roost to a safe landing nearby. Seconds later, Rick’s father, the wide-eyed inventor George Lane, stumbled from the hovership. Mom ran to him and gave him a tight hug.
“Wowza!” he said, mopping the sweat from his brow. “That was quite a ride. And my goodness! I didn’t know we had planned to dismantle the house. Smart thinking, Evie. We probably should have done that in the first place.”
“Smart thinking?!” Rick felt his face turn as red as his hair. “No, Dad, it was stupid thinking! Evie ruined everything!”
“If you had just let me do it, everything would be fine!” Evie’s eyes were all watery, and her lip quivered when she yelled.
“It would not have been fine.” Rick pressed his advantage. “It wasn’t coming down straight. I saw it. Dad, how can you not punish her for messing it all up?”
“I . . . well . . .” Dad scratched his head. “This mess does put us in a bit of a pickle.”
Evie looked between the members of her family, giving each one in turn a betrayed stare. “I hate this family! All I want to do is help you, and you resent me for it!”
“No one said we resent you.” Mom reached out to her daughter, but Evie turned away and began to storm off, away from the wreckage of Lane Mansion, into the dense jungles of the continent.
“I’m out of here,” Evie said, still barefoot and in her pajamas. “I’m done with this family. So I’m leaving. And that, Rick?” She gave him the meanest glare of all. “That is your fault.”
As they watched Evie disappear into the trees, Dad said, “Come on, Rick. Go after her. Say you’re sorry.”
Rick snorted. There was no way he was about to do that.
Mom let out a worried sigh. “2-Tor, please follow Evie and make sure she’s safe.”
“Yes, of course, madame.” 2-Tor flapped his wings, taking to the air and soaring over to the tree line where Evie had disappeared.
“Come on, son,” Dad said, stepping over to the wreckage of the mansion. “Let’s see what we can salvage from this mess.”
Rick’s stomach was all curled up. He felt sick. It was a big day all right, but not the kind he had hoped for. Was this the day Evie left the Lane family for good?
The jungle was thick with trees. Branches obstructed every pathway, like strong arms restraining Evie, telling her to stop and go back. Giant leaves slowed her progress. She pushed them aside. The green portals were like doors to another world. And that’s exactly where Evie wanted to go.
Evie had argued with her brother and her parents before, but it felt different this time. There was something final about it, a distressing reality she knew she hadn’t fully grasped. In the aftermath of the fight, her heart was still pounding—a ferocious, adrenaline-fueled beating in her chest—like she was running down a steep hill and couldn’t slow herself down.
I never fit in with them anyway, Evie thought to herself. Her mom was a critical neat freak. Her brother judged everything she did. He was so competitive, and he never said anything nice. All Rick ever did was point out all the things Evie did wrong.
The accident kept playing over in her mind. She grasped at the memory, trying to find a way to make it so that it wasn’t her fault. Rick had grabbed at the controller. She wanted to blame him, but if she had just landed the Roost like she was supposed to, everything would have been fine. Instead, all her family’s treasures were smashed, lost in the wreckage of her old home.
Truthfully, that was what hurt most of all—Evie wanted to mourn the loss of Lane Mansion as much as the rest of her family did, but somehow she felt like she couldn’t.
Pebbles and roots pricked her bare feet with each step. She really should have put on shoes before storming off. But what kind of message would that have sent? “I hate you! I’m out of here! Wait, first let me go find my hiking boots.”
She hadn’t seen any wildlife in the jungle today, but that didn’t surprise her too much. As soon as Professor Doran’s plants had taken root on the surface of the continent, a number of conservation agencies had sent endangered species to live in peace on the huge island. Birds nested. All sorts of creatures had new homes safe from pollution and deforestation. Of course, as soon as Rick needed to widen the perimeter of the Lane settlement, he had started chopping down the trees Professor Doran had planted. No wonder animals had fled the area, seeking refuge in the center of the continent.
Rick’s actions made Evie feel like a flock of screeching parakeets had nested in her brain. One of the main reasons they created the eighth continent in the first place was so animals could be safe from the “progress” that had devastated their old habitats. Now all Rick cared about was bringing more scientists and high-tech equipment to his utopia. Evie wanted to build an awesome amusement park inside the world’s largest petting zoo, where people and animals could hang out and play together. Parkgoers could ride roller coasters with giraffes and sit with hippos on a waterslide. But no one gave a hoot what Evie wanted. She had pleaded with her family to put it to a vote. Surely there were some people in the settlement who would prefer going on epic adventures to conducting boring research. But her family said no, and the science committee—led by Rick and their father, of course—decided Evie’s ideas would not be the objectives of the settlement.
Still brooding and out of breath, Evie reached the base of a steep hill. This was an unpleasant development. Climbing barefoot was not going to be fun.
“At least it’s warm out,” she said with a sigh.
Lightning lanced across the sky. One deafening thunderclap heralded a downpour that drenched Evie in seconds. Her pajamas clung to her uncomfortably as heavy droplets splashed on her head, easily fighting through the tree cover to torment her. The raindrops were hot. The sky must have been boiling. Evie could relate.
“Evelyn! Please, Miss Evelyn!” a gentle voice cried out from behind her. She turned to see 2-Tor making his way through the trees, pushing branches aside with his beak. His dark feathers, soaked with rainwater, clumped against his body. Droplets beaded down the cracked TV screen in his belly, the last reminder of his former robot self.
“Go away, 2-Tor! I’m not going back there.” She grabbed the trunk of a young tree for support and started pulling herself up the hill. Her foot slipped and she fell, smearing her leg with mud. Undeterred, Evie pressed on, fighting her way to the top.
2-Tor shook out his soggy wings. He was too wet to fly, but the bird was persistent. He followed Evie up the hill. “I must say, miss, you certainly do not make things easy for anyone.”
“Yeah,” Evie grunted as she used a big brown rock as a stepping-stone. “Then they should be glad to be rid of me. Stupid Evie, always messing everything up.”
She slipped again, falling headfirst into the mud. It covered her front completely. “Ugh . . . Ugch . . .”
The big crow caught up to her and slipped his wingtips under her arms. He scooped her up and placed her back on the uneven ground. “What I was trying to say, miss, is that you do not make things easy, but you are worth it. The family needs you. Please come home.”
“I said no, 2-Tor!” She angrily shoved the bird, and his talons went out from under him. He landed hard in the mud and tumbled a short way down the hill.
What People are Saying About This
Praise for the 8TH CONTINENT series:
"Fast-paced action, cool inventions and remarkable robots combine for an auspicious opener." Kirkus Reviews
"Good fun in the tradition of M. T. Anderson’s Pals in Peril series." Booklist
"Zippy pace and original premise." School Library Journal
“Kids will especially enjoy George’s outlandish robotic and vehicular inventions . . . in this fun yet thought-provoking story.” Publishers Weekly
"This is a delightful start to the adventures of the Lane family, with their flying tree and their mechanical bird tutor. Evie and Rick and their brilliant if eccentric parents are wonderfully vivid, and the villains who try to impede them in their quest to save the Earth, equally memorable. It's all in the great tradition of adventure fiction for young readers, running back through Akiko and Freddy the Pig all the way to Tom Sawyer." Kim Stanley Robinson, author of Red Mars