Matthew Kadish’s Earthman Jack vs. The Ghost Planet is certainly an ambitious book. For a younger-skewing YA novel, its ridiculously long. Possibly too long, but I’ll get to that later. It follows Jack Finnegan, an average teenager, who stumbles into an interstellar adventure. While I won’t summarize the plot for risk of spoiling it, I will say that it has space battles, alien invasions, a princess to save, and ancient order of knights, Michael Chrichtonesque ‘science,’ pirates, robots, basically everything a young teenager would be into. And the book mixes all these diverse ideas excellently. Every one of the characters, and there are a whole lot of them, has a fully realized personality. The plot, while it has shades of Star Wars and Guardians of the Galaxy, still feels fresh. The narrator is also quite funny, and seems reminiscent of Lemony Snicket at times. Another thing I really liked about it was during a point where Jack loses something important to him, he actually morns, something you usually don’t see in a YA novel (which usually jump right to anger and revenge). It was a nice realistic touch. As a whole, this is a fun YA novel, with a lot going for it.
My biggest issue is probably the dialogue, specifically Jack’s dialogue. At times, it sounds very real and genuine. Other times, it sounds like an older person trying to write what he imagines kids sound like. It can be very unnerving, and took me out of the story more than once. Another thing I found a little annoying is that it seemed just a little too long, purely because of meandering description or pointless dialogue or detours. It could have been a good 10% shorter without losing anything important.
Ending this review on a positive note, this is probably the first book since Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone where I actually bought the second book before I even finished reading the first. To put it simply, it is just a good, fun, enjoyable book. If you like science fiction or young adult fiction, check it out.