Six kid geniuses from around the world science their way home from space.
The Countdown Conspiracy by Katie Slivensky. Harper, 2017.
Meet Miranda Regent, girl genius from Ohio. At least her little sister thinks she’s smart enough to earn a place on the Mars Mission in this nearish-future science fiction. Society is just recovering from a decade-long world war over asteroid mineral rights. Now, it’s been decided to start rebuilding international relations with a Mars mission staffed by people young enough not to remember the war – twelve-year-olds. They are being selected through international competitions, and will train for eight years before the big space flight.
Miranda’s dream of a place on the team comes true – but instead of her best friend and rival Sasha, from Russia, also being on the team, snotty Anna from Austria is chosen instead. The team also has representatives from Peru, Pakistan, Japan, and Kenya, all meeting to train on a base in Antarctica.
On the way there, Miranda and some of the other kids are attacked. There are lots of vague warnings and narrowly-escaped bombs. Who could be behind them? Plus, Miranda was of course used to being the smartest – but among the very brightest the world has to offer, she’s feeling slow, worried that she was chosen just for being American and not for her brains. Will she ever make friends on the team, or will her homemade robot pal Ruby be her only friend?
Things come to a head when what was supposed to be a dry, practice launch winds up with the kids in space in an unfinished shuttle. With communications cut off, it will be up to the kids – and Ruby – to science their way home again.
The book is filled with lots of real science, plus plenty of intrigue and politics both international and interpersonal. It’s sure to please everyone from middle grade to adult.
Mars is the place to be these days! See my recent review of the (also excellent) Last Day on Mars for a list of more middle grade fiction set on and around Mars.
This book has been nominated for the Cybils award. This review reflects my opinion, not that of the Cybils committee.