The Phoenix Files, Book 1: Arrival, by Chris Morphew

The Phoenix Files, Book 1: Arrival, by Chris Morphew, is the first in an Australian sci-fi thriller series that Kane Miller is in the process of publishing in the US (this first book came out here in June of 2013).

Luke's mother is exited about her new job in the town of Phoenix, Australia--it will be a chance for the two of them to make a fresh life after the divorce.  Luke, however, doesn't want to start afresh, and has no interest in moving to a corporate town in the middle of nowhere.   It is a brand-spanking new town, all shinny and happy....but all is not as pleasant as it appears.

It quickly becomes clear to both Luke and the reader that there are things seriously wrong with Phoenix.   The first clue is that there is no communication with the outside world...but that is just the tip of the ice-burg.  A memory stick pressed into Luke's hand by the town's resident madman (the only discordant note in its gloss) kicks things into high gear.  With the help of two classmates, a girl named Jordan and a guy name Peter, the message on the stick is decoded.   All of the human race, with the exception of Phoenix, will be destroyed in 100 days (and this is not a spoiler--the first two paragraphs of the book warn us that this is what's going to happen).

And so the race is on, as the three kids struggle to crack into the secrets of their town before it is too late....

It's a fairly familiar sci-fi thriller type plot, and it's not exactly subtle.  But what makes this series opener stand out is that it's one I'd recommend to upper middle-grade/tween kids (11-13 year olds) rather than true teenaged readers.    The characters read a bit younger than your average sci-fi thriller teen, and the story is told in a straightforward, linear way.  Yes, there are mysteries, but they aren't densely snarled in ambiguity; yes, there's tension and the pages turn quickly, but thing never quite reached a fever-pitch.  Older readers, well versed in the end of the world genre, might find it all a bit simple (give them (give them Sylo, by D.J. MacHale); younger readers, coming to it for the first time, should find it thrilling.

That being said, it is quite possible that as the series progress, things will become more complicated...and actually I know they are going to because the Wikipedia page for the series has a nasty spoiler snarl snarl.   But in any event, Arrival is very much a first book in a series--it doesn't stand alone particularly well, and you will want to have at least the next book on hand.  All six books in the series are out in Australia...

Here's the Kirkus review.

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher

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