Category: Children’s Book
Reviewed by: Marianne Dyson
Title: Spacer and Rat
Author: Margaret Bechard
Reading Level: Young Adult
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Format: Hardcover
Pages: 192
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Date: 2005
Retail Price: $16.95
ISBN: 1596430583

Spacer and Rat offers an engaging story of two young people, a boy born on Freedom Station in the asteroid belt, and an illegal immigrant girl from Earth.

The spacer is Jack, an apprentice in food service at a restaurant/bar. He’s looking forward to his last Perihelion party with friends before taking a new job on Liberty station where the orphan hopes to find some cousins.

The rat is Kit, a teen girl whose father died on the trip from Earth to Freedom station. Determined to continue her father’s mission to deliver a special ‘bot to a far-flung station, she must hide from security and steal to eat. She takes some stolen goods to trade with Jack for food.

A “tinhead” named Silver offers to pay Jack for information about some baggage missing from the Bradbury—the ship that Kit arrived on. During the Perihelion party, Jack’s friends ask him to join in chasing a rat—Kit. Instead, he leads Kit to safety, and discovers that the baggage he was tracking is in her possession—and dangerous. Together, they hatch a plan to get Kit and her contraband off the station in the midst of the chaos of Perihelion celebrations.

The author does an impressive job of creating a fictional world complete with holidays, music, slang, and expressions, and that’s a “true fact.” The background to the story reveals a human population spread throughout the solar system. Jack is one of the lucky ones, born in space where power and resources are more abundant. The economy and government are run by “the company” that assigns children to their vocation based on aptitude tests. With more people than jobs, and continuing violence among human sects, robots and computers are carefully monitored and restricted to maintenance functions, providing an interesting twist on the future of artificial intelligence and the human interface.

I have rarely felt so immersed in a new environment. After reading this book, I can’t wait to attend my first Perihelion parade, watch a space-adapted version of Shakespeare, play some freefall games, see the constellations through the floor of the chapel, and take a ride on a space scooter. It would be “stellar!”

Spacer and Rat is marketed for young adults. Though the book contains no sex, violence, cursing, or adult situations, the reading level, because of the terms and jargon, may be too high for upper-elementary readers, but not by much. The story comes to a satisfying conclusion, but there is room for a sequel, and I do hope there will be one! I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to visit a space colony.

© 2007 Marianne Dyson

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