Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Book Review: Xor: The Shape of Darkness


It’s difficult finding books for boys because they are (historically) slower or more reluctant readers than girls. Action and adventure will appeal, especially if the plot captures their imagination. In Xor: The Shape of Darkness, author Moshe Sipper uses his own experiences and skills as a professor of Computer Science, working in the general area of Artificial Intelligence to create a fascinating off-world adventure.
Review: On the day Lewis Nash turned twelve, he expected to feel a bit different, maybe a bit older and wiser. He didn’t expect to turn into the shape of anything that popped into his head, like a stick insect or a dinosaur. It’s all he can do to keep his thoughts focused on being a boy. On his way home, things suddenly become clearer, starting with a mysterious explosion that blows up his home and kills his dad. Having lost his mother in an accident four years earlier, Lewis realizes he is now an orphan — but he has no time to dwell on it because a terrifying wolf man tries to grab him as he gets off the bus. A weird hooded man (Master Long), with long rabbit ears, saves Lewis. The man transports him to another planet called Xor, Lewis’s real home. To his utter disbelief, Lewis discovers that his true parents are Lord and Lady Shaper; that his parents on earth were his adoptive parents and that Xor is his birthplace. In fact, Lewis is actually a Shaper, and the only person who has the capabilities to save Xor from being destroyed by the Realm Pirates. Can Lewis tap into his powerful Shaper skills in time and fulfill his destiny?

What an adventure! Boys in particular will just love this blend of fantasy and sci-fi, mixed up with snippets of real science and technology. Author Moshe Sipper has successfully created a fascinating parallel world in Xor that echoes much of Earth, but sometimes improves on things. It’s a race against time as Lewis, with a bunch of helpers (including a magician) search for the sorceress Dalith the Beneficent who can help Lewis save Xor. However, it’s not just about magic and molecules. Lewis must rise to the occasion and find his role in life. Part of the monumental task facing him is finding his inner self, and discovering the meaning of love and compassion. He also wrestles with concepts such as physical freedom, slavery, and freedom of choice as he meets various unusual characters on Xor. I think the author has very cleverly threaded some important coming-of-age themes into this tale of adventure and bravery. A wonderful ending hints at more adventures. Recommended. 4 Stars
Age Group: Middle grade

by Fiona Ingram

First reviewed for Readers' Favorite
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