My son has just been enjoying one of Mark Powers’ other titles – Spy Toys – as part of his school topic so I was very pleased when a brand new space adventure by Mark came dropping through my letterbox. I also have an interesting piece by Mark on his favourite things about writing about Space.
‘Dog lost in space? Grown an extra head and don’t know why? Pocket money stolen by a green blob? You need the Space Detectives!
Connor and Ethan are spending their summer holidays aboard the world’s first orbiting city, Starville (basically Beverley Hills in space!). The amazing space station is bursting with celebrities and the mega-rich. But Connor and Ethan are too busy selling ice cream to see the sights.
However, neither of our heroes can resist a mystery and when they discover the space station is hurtling on a collision course with the moon (eep!) they know they need to step in. This is a case for the SPACE DETECTIVES!
Can Connor and Ethan find the culprit and save Starville from its impending doom?’ 7+
This is a fast-paced race for two slightly hapless heroes to save the day. Despite extensive reading and a penchant for getting into (and out of) scrapes, self-proclaimed detectives Connor and Ethan have their work cut out.
Packed with laughs, gadgets, and alien-filled mishaps – lots of fun for any reader aged seven and up!
Mark Powers guest blog post – My Favourite Things About Writing About Space
Anyone who’s ever glanced up at the sky on a clear night cannot help but notice rather a lot of those little shiny things. There are roughly a hundred billion stars in our galaxy and most are now thought to have several planets in orbit around each of them. That’s an awful lot of places for creatures to live, empires to rise and fall – and stories to happen. And that’s just our own Milky Way. Beyond that the number of other galaxies might well be infinite. Which means anything becomes possible – Earths identical to our own where you never born and some where you were born, invented a time- travelling toilet and married into royalty. If you can imagine it, it’s happening up there in space, somewhere…
But of course it’s the imagining that’s the difficult part.
One aspect of writing about space I find extremely hard but ultimately rewarding is coming up with names for alien species. Snarltoothed grizloid and tufted grotsnobbler are a couple of my favourites from SPACE DETECTIVES. One way you can concoct some juicy sounding names, as Douglas Adams (one of the great literary namers) did with the name of his character Slartibartfast, is to take a string of very rude words and tweak them slightly until you get something which sounds unseemly but which is in fact perfectly clean. It’s a fun process although one perhaps best performed out of earshot of the younger members of the family. Most of the time, though, to come up with a good alien species name you just have to slam phonemes together like a songwriter trying out chord progressions and hope something sticks.
Another fun thing about science fiction is that it enables you to look at the everyday world from a different perspective. In War of the Worlds, HG Wells took the idea of one country invading another and scaled it up so that it turned into one planet invading another, creating at a stroke the sci-fi sub- genre of alien invasion. This idea of scaling up, or exaggeration, is a key component of much science fiction. Think of Western stories where you have a mysterious gunslinger drifting from place to place, helping people with their problems. Scale it up into sci-fi and you get The Mandalorian.
In SPACE DETECTIVES, I take the idea of that feeling of panic we get when we’re in a vehicle we can’t control, a rollercoaster, say or a runaway sledge, and exaggerate it until we have the entire city of Starville heading on a deadly collision course with the Moon.
Ultimately, all science fiction, like all art, is about what it is to be human. We could be writing about strange slug-like creatures inhabiting fabulous space stations but in the end the story will boil down to very human emotions like fear, hope or jealousy. The great thing about science fiction is that is provides a funhouse mirror in which to view a distorted image of ourselves.
SPACE DETECTIVES by Mark Powers, illustrated by Dapo Adeola, is published by Bloomsbury on 4th February.
I love the idea of creating names by twisting ‘rude’ words just enough to sound obscene but to actually be completely safe. I’m off to compose a few now…
*Many thanks to Bloomsbury Children’s Books for sending me this title to review*