Previously published as Jack Blank and the Imagine Nation, this first novel by a sometime MTV producer features a young hero who will appeal strongly to fans of Harry Potter, comic books, and science-fiction franchises such as Star Trek. His name is Jack Blank. And though he doesn't know it at first, he has super-powers. One power, actually—but one that explains why machines tend to break down around him when his emotions are stirred. This power could also be a curse, since it could make him either the savior or the destroyer of the secret country where many of the heroes of sci-fi, fantasy, and graphic novels live for real. And it comes in especially helpful one dreary day when a robo-zombie villain out of one of his comics turns up and tries to kill Jack.
Ah, Jack! Raised in a damp New Jersey orphanage that brutally squashes the childhood out of children, he is bullied by the staff as well as the other kids. Jack's only solace has been the secret stash of comic books hidden in the depths of an unfrequented library. Having read these comics so many times that he knows them by heart, Jack dreams of being a superhero, or an alien, or a ninja, or a robot, or a barbarian, or perhaps a sentient hologram, like the characters he has come to admire. He meets them in real life, soon enough. And he may even have a chance to grow up to be one of them, if he can pass the entrance examination of the School of Thought where superkids train to be superheroes. Or, instead, he might have to be destroyed and dissected, because his blood contains a teeny, technological plague that turns everyone it infects (except Jack) into robo-zombies, like the one that visited Jack in the orphanage at the beginning of this book.
Jack could be the Imagine Nation's best hope of defeating the Rustov (as those robo-zombies are really called), or he could be a secret Rustov weapon to doom the galaxy. No one knows for sure—and even Jack has good reason to wonder. In spite of the opposition of Jonas Smart (the Imagine Nation's genius inventor, publisher, industrialist, and would-be dictator), Jack joins a silver-skinned space-girl and a hard-bitten barbarian boy in a series of challenges set by the ruling council to test whether they are School of Thought material. He visits Cyberspace, survives an attack by undead ninjas, and manages not to get lost in a neighborhood completely devoted to secret hideouts. He witnesses a friend's loyal sacrifice, faces the awful truth about himself, and learns to make polite small-talk with household appliances.
Even after he learns why a Rustov named Revile means to destroy him—and faces him in a climactic battle—it is clear that Jack's journey has just begun. The Jack Blank series continues in The Secret War and The End of Infinity.
Saint Louis USA
Recommended Age: 12+
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