(Catnip - ISBN: 978 1 84647 033 2)
Originally published in 1995/6 by Scholastic as a trilogy (Hard Drive, System Crash and Download), this new edition is a re-edited single volume. At first I was not at all happy at the size of the cuts involved (about 40%), but, having done it I can say, hand on heart, that this is now a much better book.
What’s it all about? Well, eleven years ago aliens from another planet came to Earth to hide something. Now they need it back. But so do their arch enemies. As Earth becomes a battleground, one boy is caught up in the very heart of the ﬁghting. Does Dez have the strength to survive? The future of more than his own planet depends on him.
‘An unusual yet pleasurable alien romp that takes place in France, Africa and New York and ﬁnally a planet in outer space named Priam. The story involves a boy named Dez and his extraterrestrial friend Yakob. Dez is caught up in a war of the world situation that takes him to the stars and back to defeat evil. Surreal, funny and sci-ﬁ, this book will have you gazing upwards in passionate wonder.’
‘Eleven years ago the Tylurians, an alien race, hid something on Earth in a very strange place. Now they need it back. Only they need to find it first. The Tylurian’s secret is so terrible that it would mean the annihilation of their arch-enemy the Vad-Raatch. The Vads will do anything to stop the recovery of this secret, and thanks to a well-placed spy, they are very close. The Tylurians have Dez, an eleven year-old earthling.
Strange Hiding Place is first-rate science-fiction. The action is non-stop. Graham Marks describes phenomenal aerial and space combats as well as a gritty street-fight in Nigeria and urban warfare in New York. Wherever Dez and the Tylurian Yakob go there is fear of subterfuge. People are not always what they appear, and sometimes Dez cannot even trust what he hears! The science is fantastically futuristic. Yakob travels around in a biologically engineered bio-syntonic intelligence that can morph from car to plane to space ship as well as warp in time. Amusingly Dez calls her Bess. She can cloak and display a sophisticated surveillance array as well as worm out intelligence from computer systems.
The characters Dez and Yakob are central to the story. They are in many ways both homeless. Dez’s parents are dead and Yakob is 300,000 light-years from home. This shared circumstance becomes a realistic basis for their friendship. It also gains the reader’s sympathy. Consequently there are moments of genuine sadness and cause for concern. As the story progresses, Graham Marks perfectly balances Dez’s change from teenage sloth to galactic hero without diminishing the underlying pain of his circumstances.
Strange Hiding Place is a highly entertaining and recommended read for children aged 10 years plus. Be prepared for a surprising twist at the end!’
‘An adopted 11-year-old boy and girl and a Jack Russell dog are the unwitting carriers of the code to end a war between two alien groups, which could easily bring about the destruction of a planet. Whilst the two factions struggle to gain access to the DNA of this unfortunate trio, they are subject to terrible dangers and barely escape fatality innumerable times. It’s very exciting stuff!
This is a compilation of three earlier (1995) sci-fi publications. It is full of ingenious gizmos and ideas, sparkles with thrilling action and good humour and it fair whizzes along. I read it in a sitting. Boys are the most likely target group but that’s not an exclusive recommendation by any means.’
Books for Keeps (4 Stars)