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A Crack in the Sky (Greenhouse Chronicles)…
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A Crack in the Sky (Greenhouse Chronicles)

by Mark Peter Hughes

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People who have read a lot of dystopias (and seen a lot of science fiction movies) will recognize elements from sources like The Matrix, Wall-E, Terry BrooksÛª Genesis of Shannara series, and Lois Lowry‰Ûªs The Giver (an obligatory reference, to be sure, but apt), as well as countless others. In fact, people who have read a lot of dystopias and seen a lot of movies may be too busy making connections among them all to fully sink into this perfectly enjoyable but not entirely original entry into the genre. This has pretty much everything but the kitchen sink: ecological disasters are rampant; the science fiction ‰ÛÏsolutions‰Û are imperfect; the all-seeing corporate entity keeps everyday people in the dark, for their own protection; they use media saturation and virtual reality to keep people docile; a revolutionary group wants to bring down the all-seeing corporate entity, no matter the cost; and a single person with special qualities stands among them as a savior/destroyer. Oh, and there‰Ûªs a telepathic mongoose who can hack computers. With her mind.

Eli is a reactionary character, so reading from his POV can be a little frustrating; though he asks the big questions, he is otherwise thrust into events by the machinations of others. Most of the time, he is clueless as InfiniCorp and Friends of Gustavo move him around on an invisible chessboard: Eli asks a question; InfiniCorp gives a pat, corporate response through official channels; Foggers spew some crazy religious sermons in secret meetings Eli attends without understanding what it means to be seen with terrorists; Eli is confused; InfiniCorp lays the smack down. His search for capital-T Truth leads him into capital-T Trouble, but he never sees it coming, and once it hits, he blunders around until something happens to push him in another direction. He develops more of an active role once he winds up in the Tower (where bad little InfiniCorp employees go to be re-educated) but even then he is staggeringly naÌøve until the end. There is another character, Tabitha, who is a foil for Eli; she is as cynical and distrustful as he is naive; he worships InfiniCorp and his family, while she thinks all Papadapolus' are evil. She joined the Foggers for a boy and ended up getting caught and sent to the Tower, where she meets Eli. Her character is less well-developed, since she only comes in as a narrator later in the novel, but she gives readers an outlet for frustration over Eli's seemingly impossibly good nature. I believe she will have some kind of redemptive arc in later books, where she learns not to be so cold-hearted all the time.

Eli‰Ûªs character illustrates the hypnotic, repressive nature of the dome-city he‰Ûªs grown up in: he implicitly trusts InfiniCorp, is only trying to be a good employee, and if they had tried harder to placate him, he might have just droned on like the tool they wanted him to be. He might even have gone along with the Horrible Truth, if they had just told him and made it sound reasonable. On the other hand, it‰Ûªs annoying how long it takes him to realize he‰Ûªs unearthing a massive conspiracy and that this is one of those things you should do with a little circumspection. I get that he‰Ûªs a very decent kid, with a strong sense of responsibility and a desire to take care of others, but at some point he has to wake up and say, ‰ÛÏHey, even though I am all of those things, the paranoids at InfiniCorp are not going to see my meeting with terrorists as my honest attempt to help out.‰Û

A few chapters are also narrated by Marilyn, the mongoose, especially once her and Eli are separated, but we're ignoring those bits. She's also too much of a deus ex machina for my liking, with all her telepathic computer skills in a future specifically built around digital realities. Her powers change and increase over the course of the book, too, so each new revelation (like, "hey, I can suddenly talk to Eli with my mind"; and, "hey, now I can manipulate virtual content with my mind!"; and so on) felt like she was constantly leveling up in a video game. Maybe in the second book will we learn more about Marilyn's history -- what was done to her to make her this way and why she was mysteriously given to Eli as a present -- and this won't annoy me so much. It is good that she seems to have much more common sense than Eli does and is always warning him about the repercussions of his actions -- maybe in the second book he will listen to her more.

What I liked about this book is that both InfiniCorp and the Foggers have good intentions, sort of. (Obviously they both have good and bad people working for them, but their whole point for existing is well-intentioned). InfiniCorp constructed the dome cities to protect people temporarily, having dithered too long over how to save the world to really save it; they are basically medicating people into blithely living their lives up to the end. I can see how this happened and understand why they‰Ûªre continuing to support living in denial. It‰Ûªs unclear to me what the Foggers point is ‰ÛÒ what they think bringing down InfiniCorp and telling people the truth will do, besides cause batshit hysteria ‰ÛÒ but they believe a messiah will lead chosen people into one protected area before everything collapses, and that these people will create a new life there (this is the part that really reminded me of Terry Brooks). Both InfiniCorp and the Foggers seem to believe the end of the world is imminent, which is why I will read the second book, just to see how Eli is supposed to fix it. The build-up makes it seem kind of impossible, so I‰Ûªm rooting for an interesting resolution that either melds Fogger‰Ûªs religious beliefs with InfiniCorp‰Ûªs science or throws everything out.

Overall, this premise of this book is a winner, and it is certainly plotty enough to keep readers turning the pages. I would call this more of an idea-driven book than a character-driven one. The world-building is an amalgamation of lots of different dystopias in movies and books, but all together it makes for an intriguing setting. The author's notes at the end are great fun to read, as he actually takes the time to explain how he extrapolated real science to come up with his ideas. They're also very well organized by subject and could possibly spur kids into doing some of their own nonfiction reading about the environment. Finally, Eli is a character I think kids will relate to -- after all, he's just gotten into big trouble and he didn't even really do anything wrong. Any kid can relate to the injustice of that feeling. ( )
  Crowinator | Sep 23, 2013 |
I know they say to never judge a book by its cover, but I guess subconsciously, I did, and as a result I was pleasantly surprised when I read, A Crack in the Sky. I did NOT like the cover at all. I thought it looked really juvenile, and I wasn't even sure what the creature on the cover was supposed to be (a mongoose), but I incorrectly guessed some kind of lizard. Now, to be fair, I do need to confess that I love dystopian novels; Life As We Knew It, The Uglies series by Westerfeld, Skinned by Wasserman etc. so that might explain why I enjoyed A Crack in the Sky so much. It is set in a time after climate change has destroyed the world as we know it, and necessitated the creation of domed cities. The narrator, Eli, is the grandson of the man who owns the company, InfiniCorp, responsible for the maintenance of those domes. As the story unfolds, the reader learns, along with Eli, that InfiniCorp might not be the upstanding company that most people believe it to be. Eli has his deepest beliefs challenged, sets out on an adventure along with his chip-enhanced pet, Marilyn, and ends up in serious, serious trouble. ( )
  JRlibrary | Oct 10, 2010 |
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For my wonderful parents, Suzanne Winnell Hughes and Peter Hughes
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Something was wrong.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385737084, Hardcover)

Thirteen-year-old Eli Papadopoulos is worried. Even though he’s a member of the most powerful family in the world. Even though his grandfather founded InfiniCorp, the massive corporation that runs everything in the bustling dome-cities. Even though InfiniCorp ads and billboards are plastered everywhere, proclaiming:
 
DON'T WORRY! INFINICORP IS TAKING CARE OF EVERYTHING!
 
Recently, Eli noticed that there’s something wrong with the artificial sky. It keeps shorting out, displaying strange colors and random images. And though the Department of Cool and Comfortable Air is working overtime, the dome-city is hotter than it’s ever been.
     Eli has been raised to believe that the dome-cities are safe, that the important thing is to keep working and consuming, and that everyone is secure and comfortable in InfiniCorp’s capable hands.
     But now he begins asking questions.
     All of a sudden, operatives from a dangerous band of terrorists keep contacting him. The Friends of Gustavo—or Foggers—want to tear down everything InfiniCorp has created. They promise Eli that they have the truth he seeks—if he’s brave enough to handle it.
     Eli isn’t convinced. And he’s about to find out that in the dome-cities, being a Papadopoulos isn’t enough to save a rule-breaker like him from being sent far away to learn right-thinking. In his new home, the Tower, Eli meets Tabitha, once at the top of her Internship class, now a forgotten slave. Together, and with help from Eli’s beloved pet mongoose, Marilyn, they just might be able to escape . . . and try to make a life for themselves in the scorched wilderness outside the domes.
 
This sweeping, high-concept eco-thriller recalls Disney/Pixar’s Wall•E and Lois Lowry’s classic The Giver, yet it is completely original, a remarkable, fully realized fantasy that will change the way you look at how we live.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:18:40 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

In a post-apocalyptic world, thirteen-year-old Eli, part of the most powerful family in the world, keeps noticing problems with the operations of his domed city but his family denies them, while in the surrounding desert, the Outsiders struggle to survive while awaiting a prophesied savior.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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