Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Middle Grade and up Sci-Fi Review: Cave World by John Cosper

Cave WorldCave World by John Cosper
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved the story. Original, yet familiar. A bit bloody in places. Funny and exciting, too.

Cave World is a fantastic journey into the sci-fi creation of Donny, a kid who spends his days dreaming up a complex, interconnected galaxy. When a bully takes his notebook and tosses it out a window, he finds all but the map of the world that links all the planets together, Arrax. Of course, he's drawn the map many times before, so he decides to just draw it again. Things take an interesting and dangerous twist when he decides to label a spot on the map (just a flaw on the paper) as the portal to Earth.

I am surprised to see that no one else has reviewed this, so I guess it's on me to give the first opinions.

First, let me say I related strongly to the hero, Donny, who doodles and daydreams about his sci-fi realm and hopes to one day publish it. As I read the story, I found that Donny (and likely the author of Cave World) loves the same movies and books I do, and it comes out in the plots and even some of the locales in Donny's worlds. Not a rip off of those works, but a nod to greatness. Cave World is supremely original, even with these familiar elements embedded.

The idea that a real world (or in this case, worlds) could be generated from the imagination of an author intrigued me. That his creations could become sentient and take their own paths, despite his plans for them, that they would develop prophesies of him, their creator, and dream of his arrival, couldn't help but capture my imagination. The story asks us to imagine god, the supreme author of all we know, as a middle school kid. As Donny joins the forces of good, he must come to grips with the reality of his creation, realizing that his plot twists, evil empire, and nearly indestructible foes (all created to make an interesting story) are more horrifying than even he imagined.

The themes of religion, fate, and free-will are intertwined into the story in a realistic way, even in the fantasy of one being drawn into a made-up world. The characters, not just Donny, are well-drawn and interesting. The worlds are unique and varied, and even those that take on the familiar aspects of stories like Star Wars are original in their own right. I love how this book made me think and I enjoyed trying to link what I was reading to the real world and to the imaginary worlds of other stories I love. The connections are subtle in places, more obvious in others.

There is a religious theme, but I didn't feel like the author was trying to convince me to convert to any particular religion. I would rank this one in the realm of middle-grade or pre-teen readers, but I must caution that there is a great deal of violence in the story, often bloody. Like with any story told for a younger crowd, parents may want to read this one first. Still, as an adult and as a parent, I would not mind my son reading it. After all, if you look at the Harry Potter books, for example, they have quite a bit of danger and violence in them as well.

Overall, I highly recommend this story to fans of fantasy and sci-fi (particularly the latter). The book presents an interesting take on religion and an equally interesting take on the power of the human imagination.

I found this book for free on Amazon. (Definitely worth paying for, though.)

View all my reviews