Ghost Star is a rollicking good space opera for young readers. Anyone from reading age to mid-teens will enjoy it.
Nolo Bray, a member of the Ruam race from the planet Tac, is the most elusive smuggler the galaxy. The book opens as his ship, the Ghost Star is finally caught and boarded by the Lingering Death, a moon-sized cruiser of the Imperium, which is ruled by the monstrous Nell. The Nell are humanoid, but much bigger than Terrans and equipped with blade-like foreclaws on their wrists.
Only one crew member remains hidden in a locker. Galen Bray, Captain Nolo’s teenaged son, watches on video as Mohk kills his father and orders the execution of the rest of the crew. But he decides to keep Bray’s young daughter, Trem, alive as a prize to deliver to his commanders in the Nell home world.
Teenaged Galen waits until the Imperium marines leave the ship, then manages to frees the smuggler ship from its tether to the Lingering Death. He’s helped by one last robot, Hex, and by the AI of the Ghost Star, which has the personality of his long-deceased mother, Bartrice — something that he doesn’t appreciate at first.
But in escaping the Imperium, Galen flies too close to a real ghost star, or black hole. There, he finds an ability he didn’t know he had. Time slows for him, allowing him to guide the ship down a plasma tube, where he discovers a planet inhabited by the last remnant of his race, the Ruam.
Surprise follows surprise. His father was the last living Ruam lord, making Galen now a lord. The smuggler Ghost Star is actually a Ruam battle cruiser disguised with scarred outer plating. It was the Nell who started a war against the Ruam, killed their home world of Tac and wiped out almost the whole species.
The pace never lets up. Galen gathers a crew of Ruam on a mission to rescue his sister. However, they first have to find a device to keep their planet from falling into the black hole. Along the way, they visit the Ruam homeworld of Tac, and an artificial moon called Zed that’s a smugglers’ haven. Think the island of Tortuga from Pirates of the Caribbean, in space. It’s there that Galen finds his long-lost aunt, Eria.
This book has everything you want in a science-fiction adventure: lots of action, a fast-moving plot, hairsbreadth escapes and lovable characters. I have to admit, Hex is my favourite. Eschbacher manages to create a personality with the perfect combination of modesty, eagerness to help, and a bit of dry humour that keeps him from being obsequious.
Eria is a badass warrior intent on killing as many Nell as she can in order to save her niece. And Burr, the Ruam’s chief scientist, is a blast. I can absolutely picture him as my high-school physics teacher.
As the villain, Lord Mohk is perfect. Evil oozes out of his every word. He kills for pleasure, maims for discipline, sends thousands of his own soldiers into almost certain death in the hopes that some of them might be able to carry out his will.
Eschbacher is a professional writer with a long career in children’s television. His style shows it: snappy dialogue, lots of humour, the right amount of sadness and a dash of teenaged hormones allow young readers to identify with the main character. Get to know more about Roger on his website and blog.
If you’re looking for a fun, fast-paced sci-fi adventure, or know a young reader who is, get this book.