Joseph Lexxus and his best friend P.C. are excited to be going to the planet Altair with Joseph’s father, United Stellar Marshal John Lexxus, who has been called in to investigate a drug smuggling operation on the planet. But these are no ordinary drug runners, and when Joseph’s father disappears, the boys must find out what’s really going on.
The strong points of this book are in the world-building and suspense built up around the plot. The settings had the same space-adventure feel as early Heinlein, and I was genuinely interested in the mystery behind the drug-running operation. Exposition was handled smoothly, giving the reader information throughout the story in a way that felt natural.
The simple but clear writing style is a good fit for the book’s intended middle-grade audience, but unfortunately Bowers seriously underestimates his readers in other areas. The main characters are supposedly fifteen and sixteen, but they display a “gee-gosh” naiveté more suited to ten or eleven year-olds- although even that might be hard for today’s sophisticated youth to swallow.
The characters’ attitudes towards “illegal drugs”, as they are referred to throughout the story, are completely unconvincing. For reasons which are never explained, illegal drugs have not been seen in twenty years. Even so, the children’s questions to Joseph’s father about them seem oddly simplistic. They never even think to ask, for example, why anyone would choose to use a substance with such horrible effects. While the anti-drug message is laudable, the delivery of it completely overwhelms the story.
While this book had some good parts, unfortunately I can’t recommend it as a whole. Bowers has a nice descriptive style, but he needs to do a lot more research in today’s children’s market before writing for it again.
Title: Joseph Lexxus and the Drug Runners of Altair
Author: John Bowers
Genre: Science Fiction, Middle-Grade
Publication: AKW Books, September 28th, 2010
Price: $2.99 (e-book, all formats)
Author’s Website: http://akwbooks.com/customerinfo/Authors/John%20Bowers.htm