Sunday 9 March 2014

Review: Harvey Drew and the Bin Men from Outer Space by Cas Lester

Harvey Drew is an ordinary eleven-year-old who dreams of great adventures in outer space. The Toxic Spew is an intergalactic waste disposal ship. The two are on a collision course for chaos! After Harvey unwittingly responds to an alien signal, he is transported to the flight deck of the Toxic Spew by the ship's bad-tempered computer, who promptly loses his return address. Even though none of the crew have even heard of Earth, let alone met an Earthling, Harvey becomes Captain of the stroppy, pizza-obsessed, brave (but grubby) crew, and almost immediately has to save them from poisonous pink maggots, dangerous exploding space-rubbish and a multiple spaceship pile-up on Hyperspaceway B16. Luckily, leading his rabble crew out of danger isn't so different from captaining his football team, and it turns out Harvey is just the boy to save the day!

Harvey Drew is a fairly typical 11-year-old boy - he loves football (in fact, he's the captain of the school team) and he has a thirst for adventure. In Harvey's case, it is adventure in outer space that he craves: his bedroom is full of models of spaceships and his computer has an Alien Alert App that constantly scans for signals from outer space. Despite the App so far picking up little more than random noises, Harvey's belief in life on other planets stands firm.

Meanwhile, millions of light years away, the crew of the Toxic Spew, an intergalactic waste disposal ship, are in dire straits. They have been captainless for several months and the crew spend most of their time bickering. They are in desperate need of a new captain, if only to keep them safe on the space lanes, but unfortunately everyone in their known galaxy knows the Toxic Spew, and the fact that it is not exactly the most pleasant smelling of places to work. In their desperation they send out a whole universe email, advertising for a captain, and guess whose Alien Alert App picks the message... yep, Harvey's! Not that he can understand a word of it, but it doesn't stop him from replying, and before he knows it he is teleported to the Toxic Spew, trillions of miles away from home, and in charge of its crew as their new captain. So begins an adventure that sees Harvey and his new crew having to deal with all kinds of weird and wonderful outer space problems.

Harvey Drew and the Bin Men from Outer Space is published by Hot Key Books, and therefore comes with one of their brilliant descriptive pictograms:

This pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the book, and I'm left feeling pretty redundant, but if you don't mind me waffling on anyway then I though I might as well tell you a little more whilst I am here. Aimed at the 7+ age group, the book is a laugh-a-minute outer space adventure story with great characters, funny dialogue (especially when they are bickering), and loads of ridiculously silly silliness.

Of course, the observant among you may be questioning how a quality like 'Leadership' fits into such a madcap, bonkers story. And therein lies a little bit of magic as cast by writer Cas Lester. As I mentioned earlier, Harvey is the captain of his local football team, and when he is thrown in at the deep end on the Toxic Spew as a very different type of captain, he starts to realise that he can utilise the qualities he has a football team captain to help gel his new team together. It's a challenging task, especially when your team are the bickering bunch of aliens that make up the crew and you are faced with previously unheard of problems like a cargo hold full of poisonous pink maggots and enough highly explosive and volatile Explo-Foam to blow you to kingdom come and back. Explo-Foam, I might add, that illegal across the whole universe, and could find Harvey and his crew either blown to bits or in deep, deep trouble with the law. However, Harvey rises to the occasion, leading by example, putting himself forward for any dangerous tasks, and generally doing the kind of things that bring a team together.

The story is accompanied by illustrations drawn by Sam Hearn. My proof copy has very few illustrations in it, but a quick scan of the first chapter on the Hot Key Books website (here) is enough to show that they complement the story very well indeed, and really being the characters to life for readers. I don't think it is creating too much of a spoiler to tell you that by the end of the book Harvey still hasn't found a way to get himself teleported back home, and for us readers this is very much a good thing as it means that there are plenty more adventures to come from Harvey Drew and his bumbling band of bin men. 

My thanks go to the fab people at Hot Key for sending me a copy of the book to read.


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