The Fog Diver by Joel Ross eARC (3 stars)
Kel Thursday, May 28, 2015 reviewThis eARC was provided through Edelweiss for review. Some things may have changed in the final version.
The Fog Diver by Joel Ross
Genres: MG, SFF, Dystopian
Published on May 26, 2015
Published by HarperCollins
Final Rating: 3 stars
A deadly white mist has cloaked the earth for hundreds of years. Humanity clings to the highest mountain peaks, where the wealthy Five Families rule over the teeming lower slopes and rambling junkyards. As the ruthless Lord Kodoc patrols the skies to enforce order, thirteen-year-old Chess and his crew scavenge in the Fog-shrouded ruins for anything they can sell to survive.
Hazel is the captain of their salvage raft: bold and daring. Swedish is the pilot: suspicious and strong. Bea is the mechanic: cheerful and brilliant. And Chess is the tetherboy: quiet and quick…and tougher than he looks. But Chess has a secret, one he’s kept hidden his whole life. One that Lord Kodoc is desperate to exploit for his own evil plans. And even as Chess unearths the crew’s biggest treasure ever, they are running out of time...
The Fog Diver is a fast-flying, one tough break after another adventure with great characters, good pacing and an intriguing but dangerous world.
The crew of kids is fun. In some ways they remind me of Firefly- a little sarcasm, a little crazy, a perpetually smiling, optimistic, genius mechanic girl... But I can also see the author working hard to present contradictions to stereotypes. For instance, Captain Hazel is a born airsailor who's smart, determined and fierce; but she's also an extreme girly girl who loves wearing skirts and jewelry and dreams of dancing at fancy balls. Likewise, Swedish is the muscle and somewhat daredevil pilot of the team, but instead of the confident Han Solo swagger, he's a conspiracy theory-touting pessimist. Bea is a genius mechanic who talks to machines and can fix anything, but she also loves flowers and stories and shiny things. Chess is a bundle of fear and fearlessness, security and insecurity, helplessness and superhuman abilities. They all read like multi-faceted characters who have moments of strength and weakness and, most importantly, come together as a crew and a family.
I particularly like that, while the author fills some "typically male" roles with girls (namely, the crew captain, mechanic and some additional muscle), they never cease to be recognizably female. They have skills and are competent, amazing young women, but they aren't girls trying to be men. They're just highly skilled girls doing what they love and what they're good at.
I'm unclear on whether this is a standalone or first in a series. It ends in a good spot, but there's obviously more to do in the world, unanswered questions and a lingering tension. Will the Fog keep rising? Does the mysterious Compass that controls the nanites really exist? Are there other human settlements far away? Will Mrs. E recover from the fogsickness? Unanswered questions aside, though, this is a great middle grade adventure for both boys and girls.