The Dark Planet (Atherton, Book 3) by Patrick Carman

Edgar must leave Atherton, the only home he’s ever known, to finish his creator Dr. Harding’s work on the poisoned Dark Planet.

The Dark Planet, a stirring conclusion to the Atherton trilogy of science fiction adventures for middle grade readers, finds Edgar heading off his home planet towards the Dark Planet, where children like him are worked as slaves tilling a despoiled earth. It’s his own journey into Mordor–except the plot of the Atherton trilogy owes more to “Lost” than Tolkien.

The world of Atherton was created by a mad scientist, and is populated by wondrous creatures and machines powered by fire and light. Dr. Max Harding, the creator of Atherton, was but a boy when he dreamed up the refuge from the increasingly toxic Dark Planet, and wrought as many mistakes as he did miracles. Nevertheless, he’s left a map of sorts for Edgar, hoping that his only son will find his way to finishing Dr. Harding’s grand master plan.

Treasure map stories can be frustrating, when predestination overpowers causality. Patrick Carman strikes a marvelous balance, with a story that depends as much on Edgar & Co.’s ingenuity as it does on Dr. Harding’s plan.

I had a great time with this whole trilogy and think they will stand the test of time as classics. While the books are not as weighty as Lois Lowry’s The Giver or as edgy as Neal Shusterman’s Unwind, they have just enough complexity to intrigue younger YA readers. The books raise good questions about ecological resonsibility, and the nature of heroism. I also think that they would inspire budding writers and artists, because Carman’s imagination is so potent and compelling. And I think that they’d make fantastic movies, so here’s hoping!

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