By S F Said
Published by Corgi / Random House
ISBN 978 0522 571340
Phoenix is a mammoth space opera with an intriguing young hero at the helm. Working with talented illustrator, Dave McKean, author S F Said took eight years to write this book, and it shows. We are in a galaxy far away, and the world building that the author achieves is phenomenal.
Lucky believes he is a normal human boy who lives on a moon at the edge of the Aries star system. He lives with his mother and knows that his father is away fighting in the war against the Axxa alien army.
But while he is sleeping one night, Lucky dreams he is flying amongst the stars propelled by a power he can't understand. He brushes it off as only a dream. But when Lucky wakes up he finds that the bedclothes on his bed have been burned. He is covered in cold ash.
When his mother discovers what has happened, she goes into over-drive. With no explanation to her son, she packs what belongings she can, drags Lucky out of the house and tries to get a spaceship off the moon where they live. But there is a war on, and Lucky and his mother cannot find an escape route.
In the desperate race to some sort of safety, Lucky is separated from his mother and after a series of thrilling events he finds himself on an alien spacecraft heading out into the war zone.
This is the beginning of an amazing journey to unknown worlds where Lucky is forced to face a power within himself that could turn out to be his destruction.
Phoenix is a mighty read that stretches the reader's imagination to the limits. Said packs so many thrills and ideas and adventure into the book that at times it feels as if the book will actually burst.
As the break-neck plot catapults along, Lucky becomes closer to the Axxa family who befriend him. This intriguing quartet of brother and sister and grandparents, with their horns and hooves and fire eyes, show great kindness to the human boy who is travelling with them by chance. Or did chance have nothing to do with the alien Axxa family taking Lucky on this journey?
This is a remarkable novel that deserves to be discovered by non sci-fi fans as well as the converted. It is a mould-breaker that goes well beyond the space adventure formula that genre fans may be used to.
And besides everything else, it is a wonderful example of how text and illustration can come together to tell a thrilling story.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com