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WesternSFA
Cosmic Storm
by Dom Testa
Tor Teen; 2011; $16.99 HB; 252pp
Release Date: September 27, 2011

Two hundred and fifty teens are en route to colonize a new planet after Earth has been infected with a comet-borne plague with a 100% mortality rate. After passing beyond the hazardous Kuiper Belt, an encounter with inscrutable aliens, death, and the loss of Council Leader Triana, the rest of the crew forge on.

It is necessary to hold an election to replace Triana, and although Gap Lee, the Council’s acting leader, seems the obvious choice, he gets some unexpected and disturbing competition. It’s not just that Hannah, his former girlfriend, is opposing him, it’s the fact that she is being manipulated by the trouble-fomenting Merrit Simms. Meanwhile, the ship is sustaining damage from mysterious and increasingly frequent bombardments of energy. This is just the sort of technical problem that Gap and Hannah used to solve together, but now campaign politics are driving them apart.  At the same time, Bonn , the director of the hydroponics and agricultural systems, is waging a lonely, inner war.

One of the outstanding features of this SF series is that it incorporates actual science; fairly basic stuff, but enough to orient young reader to the realities of closed systems, cosmic radiation, mechanics, genetics, agriculture, and social dynamics. Isaac Asimov would so approve. I hope Dom Testa gets an award to acknowledge his contribution to young adult science fiction. Good fiction can actually be a better vector for useful knowledge than textbooks. The story makes the information memorable, showing facts in relation to their effects, skills in a context of action.

At the heart of this book is the juxtaposition of free will versus responsibility. It seems to me that Testa is suggesting that ultimately there is an analogous relationship between the paradoxical nature of freedom and responsibility and the dual nature of light. Free will: responsibility:: light waves: photons; they are complementary aspects or phases of the same phenomenon. These young adventurers need both the freedom to act on their initiative and the sense of responsibility that tempers decision-making.

Isn’t and a lovely word?

This, the fifth volume of the electrifying Galahad series, is a return to the thrilling days of yesteryear, when serial publications, and radio shows, even movies resolved the cliff-hanger of the previous installment only to present the audience with a tantalizing new mystery at the last second. ~~ Chris R. Paige, Tucson , AZ

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