Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mind Control and Domed Cities

A Crack in the Sky (Greenhouse Chronicles)
The Greenhouse Chronicles: A Crack in the Sky by Mark Peter Hughes is the first book in a planned series about global warming, climate change, and how the population deals with the crisis. With so many post-apocalyptic, young adult books out there these days, it seems all new books to the genre suffer as heavy a comparison as new vampire and werewolf books do! It's stiff competition out there, but this planned series seems to have the guts to stand up with the others!

Eli lives in one of many domed cities run by InfinCorp. In fact, Eli is sort of royalty in the domed cities since his grandfather was one of the leading people to make them a reality as the face of the world changed drastically. The domes include climate control, air conditioning, and something called CloudNet- an ever-present mix of mindless ads, games, and other things for the citizens of the domes to watch. What the people don't know, though, is that the CloudNet is also a means to keep its citizens docile, mindless, and pliable. It is a type of mind control the people living in the dorm either don't know about or don't care about.

Eli continues on, living his life as normal, when his grandfather gives him an odd pet, a mongoose named Marilyn. Marilyn may seem like your typical mongoose, but she was implanted with a chip that makes her super smart and telepathically able to communicate with Eli. When there is an attack on the dome by Foggers- outside crazies who want to destroy life in the domes- Eli can't help but investigate with Marilyn in tow. When he starts to investigate, he realizes life in the dome might not be as ducky as InfiniCorp wants the people to believe. In fact, there is a very real possibility the domes may be breaking down little by little.

Although InfiniCorp, including Eli's scary cousin Spider, wants Eli to stop his digging into the failure of the domes, he can't help but continue. When he gets too close to the truth, Spider has him put in the closest thing InfiniCorp has to a jail- a "rehabilitation" facility in an off-shore oil rig. There, surrounded by a dying ocean, Eli is having a hard time fighting the CloudNet. What InfiniCorp doesn't know, though, is that another prisoner on the rig is ready to help Eli find his way past the controlling CloudNet. Tabitha knows Eli is more than he seems, and she suspects he is the one the legends talk about that will save people and help them escape the scorched earth and dying or mutating world. Tabitha and Eli must risk everything to get out and spread the word of the dying domes, but can they escape?

Climate change is a very real, very scary scenario. Unfortunately, it is also the subject of much debate. Some people work hard to discredit the theory, some work very hard to inflate or exaggerate what is happening. Basically, we have a whole lot of conflicting and confusing information that no one can agree on. One thing we can agree upon though? That we are doing irreparable damage to our planet slowly but surely. This book not only fictionalizes a possible outcome to our damage, the author also takes the time at the end of the book to explain which parts of the new world are fiction and which are steeped in fact. I find this refreshing, as the author clearly wants kids to read this book and know where his new world came from. He isn't trying to hide his exaggerations, just showing his creative license with the story. Hughes also clearly wants to encourage kids to know more about their world, challenge what is told to them, and always ask questions. I really find it hard not to love a story that encourages children to be aware of the world around them and to not just accept what authority spoon feeds them! Sure it might be easier with dull, docile, mindless young ones, but how boring would "easy" be?!

The book has a relatively moderate reading level. It would be fine for any high skilled middle school student through high school. While it appears to be a series and does end with the possibility of continuing, it isn't a huge cliffhanger that leaves the reader hanging. The scenarios are scary, but not gory. This is a great book to start discussions about our climate, our government, and our lives. The end notes by Hughes also lead to great research opportunities for teachers and students on climate change. I am looking forward to the next story, Mr. Hughes!

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