Starstormers by Nicholas Fisk

I remember buying this book from a mail-order school book club when I was about eight years old, although I was so uninterested in reading as a child that I probably didn’t consume the book till I was about thirteen, when the reading bug finally bit me. Now, over twenty years later, I’m being bitten by the nostalgia bug, so here we go again …

Four children, Vawn, Ispex, Tsu and Makenzi live in a boarding school on Earth, while their parents are busy building a colony on the planet Epsilon Cool. It has been years since they last saw their parents and more before they ever will. Bored and frustrated, they come up with the crazy scheme of building their own spaceship out of parts salvaged from a spacecraft junkyard. They name their ship Starstormer and blast off. Weeks later, soaring through space on route to Epsilon Cool, they come across an ancient colony ship from earth called the Conqueror. The inhabitants have developed a strange religion, worshipping the “Glorious Ones,” whoever they are. Ispex is first to figure out that there is great peril here for the Starstormers.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It’s clear from the beginning that the story requires a tremendous suspension of disbelief, what with kids building a spaceship, but once you accept that, you can get on with enjoying the tale. The four children have diverse character traits that make for interesting drama. I had one worry, initially, about a particular moral stance taken by the book: I didn’t like the way the author had one of the kids resorting to fraud in order to obtain spaceship parts. But the surprise ending casts a new light on the character’s actions. The ending leaves much unexplored, and feels like a cliffhanger from a multi-part drama. And indeed, there are five volumes in the Starstormers saga, each around one hundred pages. I’ve already found and purchased volume 2 on eBay.

An excellent children’s space adventure.

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7 thoughts on “Starstormers by Nicholas Fisk

  1. Mark Stevens says:

    Ah, the good ol’ days, when there was actually a market for children’s science fiction books.

    Harry Potter’s got a lot to answer for. Browse through the young reader and teen reader fiction sections of your local book store and you’ll find the shelves brimming with multi-novel fantasy series. Wizards, vampires and mysterious hoojamaflips that open up portals to Tolkien-esque realms seem to be the only things kids are consuming these days.

    But where’s all the science fiction? I’m struggling to think of a single futuristic fantasy written for children within the last decade (Star Wars spin-offs aside). Very strange when you consider the popularity of the genre on the big screen, not to mention the plethora of excellent contemporary science fiction for adults and the infiltration of science fiction into literary fiction.

    Kids seem to lap up sci-fi at the cinema and on television, so why is the genre notably absent from children’s literature? Are writers simply not bothering, or are the big publishers too busy cramming Potter-esque rip-offs down everyone’s throats to bother consider anything else?

  2. Darryl Sloan says:

    I think your observation is right. I’m not sure why, but I have one theory. Based on the perception that kids are easier to please than adults, I would guess that the children’s market attracts more than its fair share of hack writers. And what do hacks do? Copy, copy, copy. And so we end up with fantasy, fantasy, and more fantasy. Maybe that’s it; maybe not.

  3. Steve-o says:

    There’s also the issue that what’s fascinating has changed. With the space race leading up to the moonshots of the 70s and space shuttle flights of the 70s and 80s, the hot thing was space, space, space. Every kid of the 80s wanted to be an astronaut. _Star Wars_ was all over the screens and the toy aisles. Kids’ fiction was aliens and robots.

    It’s nearly thirty years since _Starstormers_ was written. A generation has been and gone. No-one’s stood on the moon since 1973. Humanity’s space achievements are a bunch of commercial satellites, an Earth-orbit station that rarely did anything exciting, the occasional rover, and the “Space Truck” – the Shuttle. Kids’ fiction turned to computers, the internet, electronic games, digital anything, and that old workhorse, fantasy.

    It’s only with the hype surrounding the Mars rovers that aliens managed to maintain a precarious grip on childhood entertainment at all. And space? Space is old hat. What kid dreams of going into space these days?

    Maybe something else will seize kids’ imaginations as it shapes the world’s perceptions. It’s about due.

  4. Cara says:

    Ah, Starstormers! I remember picking this book up at primary school one rainy day four years ago when I was thoroughly bored. I had no interest in Sci-Fi before I read this series. My school had all the books spare the final one, so I never found out the conclusion, much to my dismay. This tale is a complete forgotten jem and I’m glad to have stumbled across this page as to refresh my memory of how brilliant it was.

  5. Roz says:

    Awesome. I googled “Vawn, Space novels, Kids” because I couldnt remember and here it is! Thank you

  6. fredzep93 says:

    I have this lying quietly on my bookshelf gathering dust. I bought it years ago but never managed to get round to reading it, but thanks to your review I’ll hopefully give it a go when I have the time, fab review! 🙂

  7. Sushila De Silva says:

    I remembered Googled ‘Ispex’ – this was my first Sci-fi book 🙂 Never knew there were sequels! Thanks for the memories.

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