Phew! Now my pulse has returned to somewhere near normal…
Jennifer Killick is back at her brilliant best and I for one am thrilled. I have been desperate for a sequel to Crater Lake and was leaping about with excitement after getting this advanced reader copy via Netgalley. If Emma Carroll is the ‘Queen of historical fiction’ then Jennifer Killick is rapidly becoming the loveable evil overlord of the comedic science-fiction horror.
Firstly, if you have not read Crater Lake - the book that precedes this new release - then you are really missing out. And secondly, you really need to as the action in Crater Lake Evolution picks up six months later and without the prior knowledge everything will seem a bit disjointed.
It is Christmas time and several months have passed since Lance and his friends returned from the nightmare school residential at Crater Lake. Having survived the big-ass wasp like creatures, the once tightly knit group of friends have gone their separate ways and are settling into life at new high schools. Old friends have been replaced by new ones and personalities are rapidly changing as Lance and his old gang adapt to their new school surroundings where they are all just trying to fit in.
Like lots of towns, Straybridge is a quiet place where the local residents will tell you that nothing interesting ever happens. But when something does happen, boy does it kick off with a bang. There’s a huge explosion at the university, Lance’s mum starts acting weird and a rogue creature being used as a test subject for research purposes escapes from a secure science lab.
As Lance and new best mate Karim begin to investigate what on earth is going on it soon becomes apparent that Lance and his mates are not the only things to have returned from Crater Lake. And the safety of Straybridge, in fact the safety of the entire human race, depends on Lance getting the gang back together to stop an invasion of advanced alien mutants.
Crater Lake Evolution is gripping from start to finish. It is an action-packed, adrenaline-fuelled thriller and there is never a dull moment. Killick expertly builds up tension and suspense and there are plenty of surprises, twists and turns that will send shivers down the spine and have hearts racing. As the mystery builds and the threat from the aliens becomes more perilous there are plenty of close scrapes and near misses as the gang just about manage to stay one step ahead of the all-seeing and all-hearing mutants. Killick writes with a great awareness of her audience. As in her previous books, she has included references to some of her favourite things - Marvel, LEGO and Star Wars all get a shout out - and there are many other references that will strike a chord with the youth of today.
The characters in the narrative are totally believable and readers will find at least one that they can relate to and will probably see their friends in others. The relationships between Lance and his friends feel totally genuine and their interactions are typical for children of that age - the banter they share, the arguments they have, the feelings and emotions that they are experiencing and have towards each other.
Amidst all the alien hunting and strange goings-on are strong messages of friendship and teamwork. Lance and his mates all possess their own ‘super-powers’ - whether they be a tech-wizard or have superhuman climbing abilities - and the defeating of the aliens will depend on all of them bringing their talents to the party. As the gang slowly reforms and grudges are overcome and disagreements are resolved, Lance learns that it is OK to have new friends and that he can always rely on his old, true friends to be there when he needs them - such an important message for those children moving onto high school.
As per the first book, the words ‘DON’T, EVER, FALL ASLEEP’ are emblazoned across the front cover and this is a warning I strongly suggest you heed. Probably best to avoid the tomato soup too.
Recommended for 9+.
Thanks to the lovely peeps at Firefly Press for the advanced reader copy that was obtained through Netgalley. Crater Lake Evolution is due for publication on 20th May 2021.