Noah Zarc: Mammoth Trouble, by D. Robert Pease (Walking Stick Books, 2011, upper middle grade, 320 pages).
Time travel that's solidly science fiction for young readers is thin on the ground. With his series about a boy named Noah Zarc, a time traveller from the future whose family's mission is to restore the damaged earth to a thriving ecosystem, Pease endeavors to fill that gap. The ethical/moral point raised concerning the needs of humanity vs the needs of the planet, is certainly an important one, and it's good to see it being addressed head on.
Twelve-year old Noah is the youngest of his family, born without the use of his legs, and happiest when piloting a spacecraft. Technology enables his chair to move over any surface, but still flight gives him more freedom than anything else. Still, with the help of his chair, Noah is a full participant in his family's mission--to fill the giant, timetravelling spacecraft that is their home with extinct animals from long gone eras.
When his parents fail to return from a routine mission back in time to the Ice Age, Noah heads down himself--only to find that his mother has been kidnapped by a powerful man who has no patience with Noah's family's dream of restoring the damaged earth. Along with a stowaway--a girl from the Ice Age, Noah sets of back to thirty-first century Mars, to save his mother, and all the esoteric scientific secrets that she holds. In the process, he discovers other secrets, about himself and his family, that will shake him to the core...
It's a fascinating premise, and a fast-paced adventure, that should please young readers who enjoy technological adventures, and who are fans of animals!
Unfortunately my own enjoyment was thrown somewhat by the introduction of the girl from the Ice Age, who adapted, it seemed to me, all to well and much to quickly to the wonders of the future. I wasn't able to suspend my disbelief, and my reservations regarding her were compounded by the fact that she does little to advance the story, as she is essentially shunted off stage for much of the action. I felt this was a pity, as the cultural dislocation of time travel fascinates me, and a lot more could have been done with this character's situation.
And there were, here and there, small details that bothered me--at one point, for instance, Noah is "walking" with the help of a special suit that responds to his thoughts, but still is out of breath after a "scramble" up a hill (pp 206-207)--if it was his thoughts moving the machine, there was no physical exertion. Small things like this, but they threw me out of the story.
On the other hand, there's lots of exciting action, cool technology, and the giant spacecraft filled with biomes is fascinating. Looking through the reviews on Goodreads, it seems that this book worked extremely well for many readers, although it wasn't quite a good fit for me personally.
Noah Zarc has been blog touring--here's a list of the stops. And here's the website for the book, where you can read excerpts and find other reviews.
(disclaimer: review copy received from the author)