Title: The Drake Equation
Author: Bart King
Noah Grow watches birds obsessively. But when he attempts to follow a call that might be a wood duck, he discovers a strange sparkly disc. And life gets rather strange after that, because the disc proves capable of more than he ever imagined. What is it? Where did it come from? And what does it all mean?
I liked this well enough up until the end. Noah is consumed with his hobby, which tends to isolate him from others in a number of ways. So it’s not surprising he’s dealing with a bully, Coby, along with everything else. His habit of cataloging the characters he meets as though they were birds is amusing, and some of the incidences with the powers he’s granted are also funny.
For me the biggest problem I have is the ending. Coby’s bullying stems from two factors, one minor and one major, which is nice—but the way the situation gets resolved, AFTER he’s asked his brother to come beat up Noah? It doesn’t make sense. Noah’s eco-friendly stance is hardly a surprise, but it’s interesting to me the book makes such a point about bird species going extinct without mentioning any human-versus-human atrocities (which from an alien point of view that says “all life is sacred” seems an oversight). And it leaves Noah in the unenviable position of trying to prove humans can be good without giving him any standard about what “good” constitutes. Why should the aliens have the same ideas about good and evil, when even cultures on Earth differ in their approaches?
*** SMALL SPOILERS ***
And the aliens. I thought the whole situation would’ve worked a LOT better if they’d just stayed as voices through the devices. Granted, it would still require explaining how the devices got to Earth at all, but if the aliens are literally close enough to observe humanity directly, why bother going through all the trouble of setting up this experiment? I was also not impressed by the 4th-graders—I had initially pegged them to be the aliens, which I still wish had turned out to be the case. And introducing a total sociopath like that just for the ending, only to leave the resolution rather questionable, left me annoyed. I really hate sociopaths, but what I hate even more is an ending that appears to leave said sociopath free to continue to hurt people, even though some of the extra powers that made it so much more dangerous may have been removed.
*** END SPOILERS ***
So it was an okay read, but due to the weird way it all ties up, I ended up liking it less after I finished it than I had while I was reading it. I rate this book Neutral.