The Blue Sky Press/Scholastic
At the risk of sounding like the old man in the room, I have to say I was not too terribly impressed by Smasher.
However, I recognize that I am not the target audience for this book, as I am not between the ages of ten and fourteen. Keeping that in mind, I’m going to keep my review very broad and general. The call is in this sense that the bulk tries to appeal to that age group, I think it might do just that.
The general story centers around Charlie, a young man living in the year 1542. We are introduced to the boy as he is falling victim to a group old bullies, which should automatically make him sympathetic for the general reader of this book. Charlie finds himself receiving aid from a young girl named Geneva, who has a special talent: she can travel through time.
Geneva has come back from the year 2042 to enlist Charlie’s aid in stopping Gramercy Foxx, who is the villain of the corporate variety, planning to take over the world. Only his plan does not involve the usual trappings of the mustache twirling villain, but rather relies on Foxx’s ability to tap into what’s called the Hum.
This is where we get into a lot of noticeable influences from the Star Wars universe.
Charlie is obviously a Luke Skywalker analog, and Gramercy Foxx is, of course, the evil Darth Vader. The Hum is obviously a parallel to the Force, and Charlie is set to fulfill a prophecy. Naturally, his skill is much higher than anyone expects, including himself. And the identity of Mr. Foxx will come as no surprise to anyone who is familiar with the hero’s journey as the filtered by Lucasfilm.
Along the way, the kids try to enlist the help of reporter Jane Virtue, who is aptly (if not painfully) named, as she’s the “last honest reporter” among a media that’s been corrupted by graft and politics. And there are several references to media and corporate vice that stray very close to what we hear these days about Fox News, making me wonder if the choice of Foxx as a name for the villain isn’t completely random…
Overall, it’s not a bad read, but there are times when certain events happen rather conveniently and Mr. Bly chooses to skip over the small steps and getting from point A to point B. The chapter breaks are uneven, and the pacing of the book suffers because of that. Several pieces of the plot depend greatly on handwavium, but the lack of explanation doesn’t necessarily hurt the overall plot. I would, however, liked to have seen more of Charlie’s process for adjusting to a leap of five hundred years.
One bit I found intriguing was the ID a of linking computer viruses with biological viruses in order to carry out the evil world domination plan. And the nugget of the idea at the core of the book is interesting. But this particular execution could use another pass with an editor who knows about the devil that lives in the details. There are more than a few instances where things are not clear, and you have to be willing to skip over the narrative bumps along with the author. That involves a certain amount of trust, which hard to come by as a new reader.
Bly’s style has potential, but he’s not quite there yet.