3 Mar. 2021
Paperback / softback
Fifteen-year-old Casey Henderson is obsessed with smash-hit game SkyWake -- and she's good at it, too. Little does she realize it's actually an alien training tool created by the mysterious extra-terrestrial Red Eyes. When the aliens swoop down on a national gaming tournament, Casey and her teammates discover they're abducting the best gamers to fight in a distant alien war across the galaxy. Casey's gaming skills are her best hope of stopping the aliens and rescuing her little brother -- but first she and her online teammates must learn to work together in real life"¦
InformationBook Type: Junior High
Age Group: 11 to 14 years
Traffic Lights: Green/Amber
Class Novel: No
Good Reads Rating: 4.5/5
Literary Rating: 4/5
Fifteen-year-old Casey receives a personal invitation to compete in a worldwide eSports competition, playing Skywake, the gaming phenomenon of the year where a team of five fights together against hordes of invading aliens.
Casey is a brilliant player, but there's no way she can join the tournament: her teammates have no idea she is a girl. After becoming tired of the sexist attitudes of some gamers, she started using a voice changer so they'd assume Casey was a male. By the time she realised her current team weren't like some of those other gamers, it seemed too late to tell them the truth.
Her younger brother, 11-year-old Pete, also loves playing, but doesn't have Casey's instincts with strategy and leadership. Their father, who was an officer in the Royal Engineers (also a keen video game player), helped develop her natural skills, before being killed while defusing an IED outside a school in Kabul--planted by someone who didn't believe girls were worthy of being educated.
Casey and Pete go along to the tournament to watch, but Casey is paranoid about being identified. To protect her, Pete decides he will pretend to be her. He masquerades as Casey, but when they are called to the stage to begin playing, it soon becomes clear that he is well out of his league. The team are about to lose when the real Casey identifies herself and leaps into place, leading her team to a victory that would have been very sweet if they hadn't been immediately disqualified because of Pete's stunt.
Pete, upset at Casey's anger, runs away and hides in the service corridors in the adjacent shopping centre. He comes across a guard being hassled by some cosplayers who are dressed up as Red Eyes, the alien invaders in Skywake. When the confrontation turns serious, he realises they aren't cosplayers at all "¦ they really are aliens. Seeing the competitor tag around his neck (he and Casey had swapped ID tags), they take him prisoner.
When Casey realises Pete is gone, she panics and enlists the help of the team to help find him. They head to the shopping centre only to find everything in chaos. A series of drones construct a forcefield around the shopping centre, and looking up, they see an Arcturian drop ship, straight out of Skywake, hovering above them.
When they discover captured gamers being marched onto the drop ship, they realise the Red Eyes must have been using the game to train soldiers. However someone must have helped them, since they can only speak in their own alien tongue.
After tricking their way on board the ship to rescue Pete, the team mates just make it to the drop pods thinking they will be taken back to earth. What they don't realise is the ship is no longer in Earth's atmosphere. Instead it is orbiting above Hosin, and they are about to drop right into the combat zone. Their only option now is to fight "¦
This is an engaging well-paced read with an interesting premise that also highlights the attitudes female gamers sometimes have to deal with. An easy introduction to science-fiction for those new to the genre, and a great read for video game enthusiasts.
video games, online gaming, science fiction, alien invasion, teamwork, courage, family, secrets, gender disparity, female gamers
1. An elderly man who fought against the Nazis stands up to the Red Eyes, and they kill him - not graphic (p103-4). 2. A gamer is thrown off the rooftop to show the others what will happen if they disobey. However just like in the game, he falls into a swimming pool, shaken but otherwise unharmed (p178-93). 3.Spider bots ("tarantulas' bite with paralysing fangs (p223). 4. Non graphic fight scenes between Red Eyes and humans.
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