The Ascension Machine by Rob Edwards
Welcome to the Justice Academy – the galaxy’s best superhero college! Teen grifter Grey arrives at the school carrying a lie: he isn’t really tech heir Mirabor Gravane. At the first opportunity Grey plans to leave the Academy. That is until he makes the mistake of starting to like his fellow students. The Justice Academy promises to “equip you with the skills to be the hero the galaxy needs” and Grey is beginning to believe the hype. But as he takes more risks to protect his secret, events spiral out of his control. When the real Gravane is kidnapped, Grey and his new friends must come together to mount a rescue and defend a city from an attack by hostile super-powered aliens. If he is to succeed, or even survive, Grey must decide who he is, and does he want to be a superhero?
The familiar setting of the school for witchcraft and wizardry gets an upgrade to intergalactic academy for Superheroes in Rob Edwards' exciting and action packed adventure for Middle Graders.
The story centres around an unnamed artful Dodger type, who lives hand to mouth doing various con jobs on numerous galactic space stations, until one day he is offered a job that seems too good to be true. All he has to do is to pretend to be some rich kid for a little while so that said rich kid can escape from his magnificently rich family and disappear into the cosmos to make his fortune.
Seem simple? Yeah you would think so, but he should have heeded the advice that if something seems too good to be true, then it probably is, as the seemingly simple job as masquerading as some rich kid gets him taken to the aforementioned super hero academy and ends up with him continuing to live the life of the rich kid, Mirabor Garvane and actually finding something that he didn’t know that he needed - friends and family.
Rob Edwards’s book is a delightful romp from start to finish. The superhero academy works well and whilst it may remind you of certain other educational institutions, it does instil a little bit of realism into the curriculum, as there is the constant question of who does the superhero academy actually belong to, and are all these superheroes doing it for the love of saving people or is there a question that they may be in league with the larger corporations.
The ensemble cast led by the enigmatic Grey, as he becomes known as, is strong and well realised, with certain members of the team standing out more than others in this first adventure. Sevenfourthirty is implacable in his friendship and honest nature. He readily accepts Grey as his best friend and kind of provides his moral compass. Whereas, it is Gadget Dude who shines the brightest and while he doesn’t necessarily converse much throughout the story, he communicates so much with simple verbal expression and gesture.
The narrative itself is fast paced and easy to follow. It's full of well placed humour and lovingly crafted quips at the superhero genre as a whole. The story itself is full of adventure and familiar themes, such as the found family aspect, which when done well is always a delight. There is a little bit of spy thriller thrown in there to up the ante somewhat. On top of that, there is a legitimate feeling of threat in the book, as whilst there are no graphic details of injury, not everyone fares as well as you would expect in the story.
The Ascension Machine is an entertainingly fun packed story, full of action and intrigue and will appeal to both budding sci-fi and superhero fans.