Travel for two young groundlings is dangerous. Hunters from the hives patrol the skies and sadistic packs roam the cities and the roads. But Jim, driven by his father's mysterious dying words to go to the Caretaker and find Florence sets out anyway, taking with him HF, his friend and companion since childhood. Their hope lies on the river, and the raft that will carry them through the long nights ahead and toward their destiny.
While The Raft, The River, and The Robot pays homage to Twain's immortal classic, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, it is original and compelling in its own right. So come along, the future awaits.
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Fourteen year old Jim Finch lives with his father Atticus and their little robot friend HF in the woods on an island in the Mississippi River. However, it is a dystopian world of empty cities where most people live in places called hives, the few who dwell elsewhere are known as groundlings, and hunters in hovercraft come from the hives to kill groundlings for sport. Atticus has never revealed much to Jim about his past life, except that his wife, Jim’s mother, had died when Jim was very small. However, Atticus becomes sick, and before he dies he mysteriously tells the boy to find the Caretaker and Florence. After burying his father, Jim and HF go for information and assistance to their nearest neighbors, the Murphys, who have no idea who or what Florence is but tell them how to find the Caretaker and help them build a raft to float down the river. Of course, the two will have to sail at night to avoid detection by hunters. Along the way, Jim and HF have to deal with a pack of motorcyclists who almost burn HF up, a bunch of savage dogs, a demented pyromaniac named the Duke, and a group of hunters, in addition to the perils of the river itself. What will happen to them? Will they ever find the Caretaker and Florence? Will they even survive their trip? With characters named Jim and HF (for Huckleberry Finn) and floating down the Mississippi on a raft, this book obviously tips the hat to the famous novel by Mark Twain, but it is not a mere retelling of Twain’s tale. It is an independent story that I liked very much and found quite compelling. Aside from a reference to smoking a pipe and a few colloquial euphemisms (heck, tarnation), I was disappointed that towards the end, HF uses the “h” word, ordering Jim to “run the [‘h’] out of this town.” However, there is an overriding belief in “Providence” that permeates the plot. Author Lowell B. Graham lives in St. Louis, MO, and teaches school at Westminster Christian Academy there. We lived near St. Louis for six years, and I met him at a homeschool conference. There is an eerie semblance to Stephen Vincent Benet’s “By the Waters of Babylon.” Anyone familiar with the area will immediately recognize the Pere Marquette State Park lodge in Illinois and the Gateway Arch in downtown St. Louis from the descriptions of what they might look like following some kind of holocaust. Of course, Graham drew from other sources too. Those of us who have watched Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager will have no trouble seeing the holodeck in the Caretaker’s “dream pod.” Graham has also written the five-book “Binding of the Blade” fantasy series, the first volume of which, Beyond the Summerland, I have read and reviewed previously.