you be able to survive in a world of mountaintops and airships? In the
distant future, thirteen-year-old Chess and his fellow crew members live
on an air raft high above the earth and the thick misty fog that covers
all the once-inhabitable lands.
My name is Chess, and I was born inside a cage.—The Fog Diver by Joel Ross (HarperCollins / HarperCollins Children's Books, 2015, p. 1)
Imagine a wooden platform jutting from a mountain cliff. Now picture a chain falling from that platform and vanishing into the Fog, a deadly white mist that covers the entire Earth.
That's where I was born: locked in a cage, at the end of a chain, inside the Fog.
- Setting: mountaintops and airships; in the future
- Circumstances: The woman who has provided Chess and his crew with a home has fallen sick, and the young teens don't have enough money to buy her a cure. When trying to raise the funds to save Mrs. E, the kids get on the wrong side of air pirates, junkyard gangs, and a slum lord. Will they survive to help to their friend?
- Characters: Chess, a tetherboy, who dives off the raft into the Fog to search for salvage; Hazel, the captain of the air raft; Swedish, the pilot; Bea, their mechanic; Mrs. E, who acts as their foster mother; various air pirates, slum lords, gang members, and neighbors
- Genre & audience: dystopian with a steampunk feel; despite some techie elements, I wouldn't call this science fiction; the book is geared to middle grade readers
- Topics & themes: friendship, pollution, survival, family, trust, loyalty
- What I like so far: Ross has done a great job creating four distinct characters, each with his or her own personality and skills. The futuristic earth is easy to envision, especially because the items Chess finds in the lands under the Fog are from our own era. Snappy dialogue and fast action keep us invested, as the kids run from rivals and hide from pirates. Readers of all ages will appreciate the corny humor, which also serves to ease the tension. In addition, I sense there might be a little romance brewing, but so far it's pretty tame, age-appropriate stuff.
- Extras: I understand that this is the start of a new series. I hope so, because I really enjoy being in Chess's world. The novel has won several starred reviews.
- Recommendations: Perfect for anyone who likes dystopian and/or steampunk stories. Chess and his friends are resourceful, smart, and independent but still retain enough vulnerability to be likeable and believable. Fun reading for the whole family.