Emperor of the Universe by David Lubar
Publication Date: July 2, 2019
Summary from NetGalley:
When seventh grader Nicholas V. Landrew, his beloved pet gerbil Henrietta, and a package of ground beef are beamed aboard an alien space ship, they soon find themselves on the run in a madcap chase across the universe.
Now all Nicholas wants to do is get back home before his parents find out and ground him forever, but with the Universal Police hot on his trail, that won’t be easy. Before it’s all over, Henrietta will find herself safely ensconced back in her cage, Nicholas will be crowned Emperor of the Universe, and something even more surprising will happen to the package of ground beef.
ARC provided by MacMillan via NetGalley for an honest review.
I always enjoy David Lubar’s books. They are always fun with great characters and plots. This one is right on the mark for middle grade students who are looking for some entertaining science fiction.
I really like Nicholas. He just really wants to do the right thing, but somehow that always seems to backfire on him. It really isn’t his fault that the aliens he meets interpret his intentions so wrongly. And it all started with a simple misunderstanding too. But Nicholas takes it all in stride, even when a package of ground meet starts to talk to him! I’m not sure I could have been so smooth with that one.
Henrietta was perfect. She talked and acted exactly like I imagined a gerbil would if they could talk. She was a great sidekick and really helped Nicholas out when he needed it. Jeef was a bit harder to take. I just wasn’t sure about how a package of ground beef could suddenly be sentient, but I just decided to go with it. Jeef made for an interesting character.
Nicholas becomes friends with two aliens who were fun to read about. Clave was a social media hound who rescued Nicholas and helps him to understand and navigate through the universe. He was also funny and clever, even though his obsession to always be posting often got them into trouble. Spot was also a good hearted character that often helped Clave and Nicholas out of some tight spots.
The plot was well done, with good pacing and lots of action. Some of the science could be questionable, but the creativity of the worlds and cultures that Nicholas encounters certainly makes up for that. The style is definitely a homage to Douglas Adams. He gets the humor and fun of Hitchhikers Guide without becoming Douglas Adams. Most middle schoolers will not get this, but as an adult I thought it was fabulous. It might get some kids interested in Douglas Adams books which is always a plus.
Overall, this was a fantastically funny read that kept a smile on my face even after I was done.