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The Last Book in the Universe

For use in schools and libraries only. In the dangerous ruins of a once great city now known simply as 'The Urb,' a young hero embarks on a quest in the company of a mysterious stranger known as Ryter, crossing war-torn 'latches' dominated by wild mobs and demented gang bosses.
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Gr 6-9-Following the Big Shake, which destroyed most of civilization, a small group of individuals (the "proovs") retreated to Eden, learned how to improve themselves genetically, and sealed their environment off from the sprawling ruins inhabited by the remaining normals. Plagued by genetic defects, a toxic environment, and illnesses, normals like Spaz live in the Urb at the mercy of latch-bosses and their gangs. Spaz knows that his survival depends on Billy Bizmo and the Bully Bangers, so when they send him to rob an old man, he obeys. Ryter willingly surrenders his few possessions except for the pages of the book he is writing-the first time Spaz has seen anything like this. And when the boy sets out to find Bean, his dying foster sister, Ryter insists on accompanying him. Along the way, they are joined by Lanaya, a proov, and Little Face, an orphan. Finding Bean is hard enough; helping her appears to be impossible, until Lanaya takes the motley group back to Eden and confronts the rulers with the truth about the outside world. This is science fiction, not a fairy tale, and everyone does not live happily ever after. Spaz has epilepsy, no family, and no hope. Eden ejects the group and Ryter is "cancelled" by the gang when they return to the latch. The story ends with Spaz alone again in the Urb, writing his own book. Unpleasant settings are offset by the sympathetic characters and an involving plot, but too many red herrings often obscure the main theme. Also, the science part of this sci-fi is vague. However, readers who don't examine it too closely will be caught up in the novel. There is definitely room for a sequel, and readers will want to know what happens when Spaz finishes his book, Lanaya becomes a Master of Eden, and Little Face grows up as its adopted son.-Susan L. Rogers, Chestnut Hill Academy, PA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Like the hero from his last novel, REM World, Philbrick's latest misfit protagonist embarks on an adventure in a fantasticÄand often frighteningÄalternative world. Spaz, an abandoned epileptic, lives on postapocalyptic Earth, destroyed long ago by an earthquake. The gray sky rains acid, the food is largely "tasteless protein chunks" and the creation of "mindprobes," virtual reality movies implanted directly in the brain, is destroying what's left of civilization. When Spaz learns that Bean, his foster sister, is dying, he begins a forbidden journey to see her. Ryter, a wise old man, accompanies Spaz and outwits most of their foes; he also ultimately teaches Spaz the value of keeping stories alive. The author creates some fascinating characters, such as the Monkey Boys, a brutal band "as wild as the paint on their faces"; Lanaya, a genetically improved girl whom Spaz and Ryter rescue; and the Furies, assassins who work for the boss of the "underworld traders." Once they find Bean, LanayaÄin return for saving her lifeÄtakes them to the one place where Bean stands a chance of survival, Eden. This biblical allusion, plus allegorical references to the Odyssey (the ending echoes James Joyce's monologue for Penelope), is not fully developed, and some of the episodes are a bit abrupt (e.g., the encounter with the Monkey Boys and the Furies). But Philbrick's creation of a futuristic dialect, combined with striking descriptions of a postmodern civilization, will convincingly transport readers to Spaz's world. Ages 10-14. (Nov.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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