Several of the staff here at PopMythology have offspring geeks-in-training and we are all interested in properly educating the younger generations in the appreciation of the finer arts of superheroes, science fiction and gaming, the cornerstones of geek culture. In the past, we’ve enjoyed the educational Howtoons: [Re]Ignition comic series from Image Comics and have recently been offered a chance to check out a new book series by Random House called Voyagers.
At least six books have been planned for this series which seeks to be a multi-platform experience aimed at middle-grade readers, and a number of talented writers have been engaged to pen the stories, including D.J. MacHale, author of the very popular young adult Pendragon books. The story line is set in a future that is neither too distant nor completely incomprehensible – an earth that is nearly out of fossil fuels and has failed to produce and develop reasonable and sustainable alternatives. A potential solution has been discovered in deep space, and while the complexities of interstellar travel have been partially sorted, there is a big caveat. The journey can only be survived by pre-adolescent children.
In Book 1, Project Alpha, we travel to a secret government facility in Area 51. Eight gifted and talented kids have been selected and are being tested to determine who will undertake the journey to save the earth. The challenges are high-tech and exciting: virtual reality battles with dinosaurs, flight simulations through asteroid fields, and all sorts of demanding trials of physical endurance, agility, and mental dexterity. The action is interspersed with equal doses of humor and interpersonal tensions among the prospective team members and makes for an energetic and delightful read. The characters are gender-balanced and are intelligent, interesting, and empowered role models for kids without being stuffy adult caricatures of ideal children.
From an educational standpoint, the science is a bit light, but I see at least this initial book of the series as more about sparking curiosity and imagination. And in the long run, an active sense of wonder and fully engaged creativity will serve a grown child better than a head stuffed full of facts and equations. The book also contains a code to crack and tie-in to a website with missions and further explorations to encourage interaction and active reading.
In short, I think Project Alpha is a fantastic start to what promises to be a great series that will hopefully inspire a whole new generation of geek culture fans and readers.
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”
― George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons