Theo Blinkerson and the Copper Coffin is a dystopian science fiction novella suitable for MG through to teen readers. I suspect the tween audience will enjoy it the most.
The main protagonist, Theo, is 14 and living on a space station in orbit around Earth with his parents and a team of scientists. Before this he lived in Eversham – a “nicely bigoted, little region north of Kentridge, where most people still aren’t ready to deal with the fact that neurobs are people.”
Neurobs? Neurobs are robots / androids / AIs whatever you want to name them. They are prevalent throughout this future Earth and they are so human like that often people can’t tell the difference between“a wet-born and a neurob. Sometimes you’ll see an I/O port behind the ear, maybe hear a little whir if you’re walking right next to one – but maybe not.”
Theo’s best friend is a neurob named Carson – in fact Carson is his only friend. They are separated when Theo moves to the space station, however Theo can communicate with Carson using a comm card which Carson gave him. So apart from being bored senseless on a space station and schooled at every turn by the scientists, Theo can at least still talk to his friend – until the comm card stops working. In fact all communications including their “elevator” to the planet stop working. They are stranded, desperately trying to figure out how to communicate with Earth and considering the dire need to ration food.
On Earth a movement against the manufacture and continued existence of neurobs has been gaining ground and a revolution of sorts has begun to rid the world of all neurobs.
Those on the station have no idea what is going on.
When the “elevator” finally starts working the scientists lock its doors and decide not to open them until they’ve completed further investigations – they fear some form of contagion risk. Thanks to Theo ignoring the rules, when the space lift starts working, he is there to witness its arrival and meet the girl, Ilene, who breaks out of it. From here the adventure escalates and Theo finds himself embroiled in a struggle to stop all the neurobs from being destroyed.
Butron has created convincing young teen voice for socially awkward loner Theo. Written in the first person, at times the narrative digresses into a stream of consciousness from Theo – which is often very amusing. On the whole I really enjoyed this aspect, however not when the action should have been playing out.
Pacing is this story’s single biggest problem and Theo’s tangential ramblings do slow the pace down right when it needs to ramp up. For instance when Theo and Ilene are battling a deranged “reprogammed” neurob on the space station the pace should be fast until the end of the fight, but Theo’s cute ramblings are spattered throughout it and slow it down. A few less of these and the scene would have flowed much better.
When the book ends, little has been resolved and the final scene was a little anticlimactic for me. (Hopefully a sequel is planned to finish the story.) I would have preferred Butron to have given us a slightly longer book and at least resolved a little more in regard to the bad guys, or to have finished the book a little earlier and left us on more of a cliff hanger.
All up though this was an enjoyable read. Would I read a sequel…yes.