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Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

The Gods & Their Machines
by Oisin McGann
ages 9-12 240 pages Tor Teen November 2004 Hardcover    

Chamus never would have imagined that running a few minutes late for flight training would save his life, but he arrives at the hangars just in time to witness a Fringelander on a suicide mission take out his class. He's left with a ringing in his ears and a new hatred for the zealotry that would lead to such an attack.

Chamus lives in the country of Altiman, a place of high technology. The area Altimans refer to as the "Fringelands" is known as Bartokhrin to its own citizens. They don't see themselves as being on the fringe of any other land; although primitive by Altiman standards, they are a proud, hard-working and extremely religious people.

It's this religion that is causing problems for Riadni. A headstrong and tomboyish teenage girl, she chafes under the restrictions placed upon her by tradition. Yet despite some progressive ideas, she's not quite prepared to deal with an enemy Altiman landing in her backyard when Chamus crashes in Bartokhrian territory.

Riadni and Chamus are engaging characters, and their interactions serve as a microcosm of the differences between the two cultures. As they are forced to travel together, it would have been easy for the author to delve into clichés like a budding romance, but he thankfully takes the high road, and instead focuses on their growing appreciation for their differences and their discovery of truths such as the idea that one country's "freedom fighters" are another's "guerillas." While Riadni and Chamus are decidedly the main characters of the novel, the reader is allowed to see all facets of the Altiman and Bartokhrian experience through the eyes of diverse characters. As the story progresses, several new twists keep the reader guessing while continually building interest in the plot.

While The Gods and their Machines deals with imaginary cultures and technologies, the underlying internal and external struggles are indistinguishable from the conflicts broadcast on the nightly news. The hallmark of quality science fiction is that it provides a reflection of our current world through the mirror of the fantastical story, and this novel doesn't disappoint. In a fight triggered by religious differences and imperialistic policies we can see the follies of our own world. When we read a hopeful ending, we're left with similar hope for our own future.
Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

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  Lorie Witkop/2005 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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