15. The Doom Machine by Mark Teague
Publication: The Blue Sky Press; First Printing edition (October 1, 2009), Hardcover, 320pp / ISBN 0545151422
Genre: Sci-Fi, MG/YA
Read: December ?, 2009-January 21, 2010
Summary from Amazon:
When a spaceship lands in Vern Hollow, Jack’s hometown, he and his no-account inventor-uncle Bud are busy trying to fix a car driven by Dr. Shumway and her daughter, Isadora. Although Uncle Bud secretly knows the aliens are after one of his inventions, everyone is surprised when the space aliens capture seven of Vern Hollow’s residents and take them into outer space on a wild adventure…
I haven’t read a lot of 1950’s sci-fi novels, but I have seen some movies. They tend to be cheesy and completely out of the realm of possibility. The Doom Machine was not actually written in the 1950’s, but it does take place there and it’s basically like a cheesy 50’s sci-fi movie but better. Or maybe “tolerable” is a better word. Perhaps “rip-roaring fun” would be the best thing to say. Also: “giant spiders from space.”
Now, I don’t want to give too much away, because some of the best stuff comes up in the second half of the book and you should really just read it for yourselves. But basically: take two spunky, brilliant kids. Add some aliens that look like giant spiders with fingers. Sprinkle in a pinch of time travel, journeys across space, visits to other worlds, more aliens (ones that don’t look like spiders), humor, exciting adventure, and science. And you get The Doom Machine!
Probably the best part was how some of those 50’s sci-fi movie tropes were obviously included (spaceships shaped like saucers, for instance) but they weren’t annoying or cheesy; they were just fun instead. I really liked Isadora, who’s smart and a bit stuck-up but with a good heart. Jack was an interesting character, too, although I don’t think get got as much personal growth as Isadora did. I liked how he was the smart aleck troublemaker kid, but one who really loved engines and could supe up anything to go beyond the factory standard.
I haven’t read a sci-fi novel in a while where the aliens look nothing like humans (except maybe the fingers), and that was really nice after watching so many Doctor Who episodes where every freakin’ alien just looks like a human in a costume. And I liked that it went beyond “what are the aliens doing on Earth omg we much bomb them with big bomb-y things.” I don’t know of any 1950’s sci-fi movies that took their heroes and heroines out into space with the aliens! (Do you?)
Plus, you see, it was hilarious and weird and awesome.
The Doom Machine was a nice break from the norm, and it was a truly enjoyable break. There were some times where the characters didn’t seem like they were all that they could have been, or where the tropes got a little overboard, but overall I really liked it.