A LOOK INSIDE SHANGHAIED...
T MINUS 16:00:01
Tomorrow's my birthday and my father is on the Moon.
That's no coincidence. Two days ago, Dad blasted off to do an emergency job for Alldrives, the biggest areospace company in the solar system. He didn't have to go.
Through the window in the Counselor’s waiting room, I watch as the Moon slips between the perfect line where the sky meets the ocean. It’s a daytime rising and the gigantic orb is pale, almost ghostly. It seems to linger at the threshold of the sky as if someone is holding it back, then it breaks free to claim all of space for itself.
Makes me shiver.
Like an enormous opaque bubble, the Moon rises higher above the Old Spaceport out on the end of the peninsula. I can barely make out the big dimple of Copernicus Crater. Invisible, Luna Base rests at the rim. Dad’s staying there.
The only thing I want for my thirteenth birthday is his signature on my application to Space Academy Camp, which is due next week. I had a whole new round of arguments about why I should go all planned out, but now he’s gone.
I turn my back on the window. No one else is in the waiting room. No one is in with the Counselor ahead of me, either. But the sign above the office door still says, “STEWART, WAIT, PLEASE”. Everybody’s acting weird. The Counselor never makes me wait.
I take a seat.
If you ask me, Dad ought to be sitting here. Mark, too. He’s like an old mother hen with Dad gone. I mean, he called to make this appointment at two o’clock in the morning! The dream wasn’t that bad, as my dreams go, even if Mark says I woke up screaming.
My feet jiggle. A few more minutes and I’m outa here. I have a science project due tomorrow that I haven’t even started.
I snug my portable 3-Vid goggles and earphones over my head and select a capsule at random from the cluster of Val Thorsten adventures in my pocket. When I pop the capsule into the ear piece, virtual reality takes over. The waiting room becomes the bridge of a spaceship, the Predator from ASTEROID RUN. The engines throb, a deep bass note in my bones. There's the smell of people in a tight space. I'm stationed at weapons control.
Not ten feet away stands the captain, Val Thorsten; tall, muscled, his long blond hair swept back into the classic pilot's ponytail. Leadership radiates from him like a force. It's easy to imagine his Viking ancestors on the foredeck, awash in the spray of a stormy ocean, guiding their ships to new worlds.
The voice-over begins: "Pirates have been raiding ships throughout the asteroid belt, then escaping---
ASTEROID RUN isn’t one of Val’s best adventures. There’s only one really exciting part. I hit fast forward.
Fast forward in virtual reality is wild. The world squiggles. I don’t like to use it. It reminds me too much about why I’ve been seeing the Counselor since Mom died. The squiggly effect is a lot like what happens just before a flashback hits me. Sometimes a word, or sound, or smell will trigger one. One second I’m living a normal life, the next things kind of shimmer around the edges then--wham!--I’m in a waking nightmare.
I haven’t had a squiggly in months. That’s why I don’t just cut out on the Counselor. The Counselor helps keep them away.
I hit play. At least with a 3-vid, I know I’ll drop back into the same story...
...and we're in hot pursuit of a vicious-looking pirate ship: all cruel angles and Z-blasters. It plunges into a dense cluster of asteroid rubble. We blaze in after it. One wrong move and those flinty rocks will shred us into confetti.
Three other pirate ships shimmer into view on the main screen.
They open fire. My teeth chatter. My ears ring. Alarms blare.
Another volley pounds the hull like a thousand hammers on a gong. The deck pitches. Vertigo grips me. In the real world, my arm flies out. Knuckles smack hard against the empty seat next to me in the waiting room. Good thing no one else is here. Shouldn't watch 3-Vids in public.
"NavComp damaged!" Tony, the chief engineer, shouts. “We have to stop or we'll be smashed to pieces!"
“And let them capture us? Never. Let me have her, Bob.” Val leaps into the pilot's seat. Bob’s a good pilot, great even, but he’s not the greatest. Val’s hands flutter over the helm console. The ship responds, engines purring like a stroked cat. We hurtle between the clustered rocks. Dance around death. The Predator breaks into clear space. Val takes us through a loop the loop, then shoves the throttle to the max, leaving the pirates lost in the rocks.
I yank off the goggles, stung by the beauty of Val’s skill and mad at Dad all over again. Why is he ruining my chance to do that?
Shanghaied to the Moon
Reviewed by Peter Green, grade 6, Brattleboro, VT
Stewart Edward Hale, a kid living in the year 2165, dreams of going to the Moon in a hi-tech spaceship. However, his way to the Moon is blocked because his dad, who is on the Moon, will not let him take Astro Nav (a space navigation course), the only pilot essential he cannot do.
“Tomorrow’s my birthday and my father is on the Moon.” After reading that first sentence, I was hooked. As I turned the pages, I encountered an old, alcoholic “spacer” (spaceship pilot), a holographic “counselor,”
and a wild puzzle of memories that chal-lenge the very existence of Stewart’s current way of life.
Stewart’s hero, Val Thorsten, was a space pilot who had many adventures. These adventures, which actually happened, were recorded or taped and made into “3-Vids,” virtual reality videos that put you in the adventure. However, as time goes on, Stewart’s vision is radically changed by the old spacer, who persistently tries to convince him that many things are not as they seem to be.
I read this extremely exciting book in a single sitting. When I say I was hooked, I mean it! At first, I was very confused because the book did not say that the year was 2165 until later in the story. What kept me going was the fact that I wanted to see how it would all come out. Michael J. Daley weaves a startling tale of machines, space, heroes and dreams.
I recommend this book to ages 12 and up, due to references to alcohol and some profanity.