Starstormers 4: Evil Eye by Nicholas Fisk

Once again the Starstormers – four children in a home-made junkyard spaceship – blast off into space to escape the onslaught of the Octopus Emperor. Their ship, barely holding together, crashlands on a planet known as Moloch (interesting term, if you’ve read the Bible). Upon exiting the ship, they find themselves in a jungle filled with all manner of Earthlike creatures, although mutated beyond recognition – and many of them hostile. Makenzi and Tsu take on the role of learning to hunt for food, while Ispex concerns himself with locating metals with which to repair the ship. Vawn starts hearing voices in her head, discovering that there is a vast intelligence in their midst. The Starstormers eventually learn that they are not on the planet itself but have crashed into a doughnut-shaped satellite that was placed in orbit – a structure made by mankind as an environment suitable for life, but upon which life has now run amuck. And the Starstormers must restore balance.

One question occurred to me: if you crash through the outer shell of the satellite into its Earthlike atmosphere, how do you avoid evacuating the entire atmosphere into space? Well, let’s just say, if you’ve read volumes 1 to 3 of Starstormers, Fisk isn’t terribly concerned with major plot holes or wacky science. In children’s literature anything goes; it shouldn’t, but it often does. Is it sloppy storytelling? Of course. Should a writer know better than to say to himself, “Ah, kids never notice that sort of stuff”? Yes, he should. Does it ruin the book? For an eight-year-old, probably not. And so, Fisk gets away with it.

I’ve had fun on this nostalgia trip so far, but with volume 4, I’ve started to get impatient and bored. The strength of the book is in the humourous interactions between the characters. It’s just a pity Fisk couldn’t come up with better story material. I’m on the home straight now, so I’ll probably read the final volume, Volcano, just for the sake of completeness.


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One thought on “Starstormers 4: Evil Eye by Nicholas Fisk

  1. Kit Downes says:

    Glad to see someone else remembers this series fondly. I devoured them (in the wrong order, but I still loved them) between ages 10-12 after I found Catfang in my school library. I loved them for the characters (particularly the pair dynamics between Tsu and Mak, Ispex and Vawn, Shambles and everyone)and the adventure. The idea of dust as the evil enemy they cannot fight against still makes me shiver.
    I do feel you’re being a little unfair about Fisk’s grasp on science. How many SF books have you read where four or so pages are entirely taken up explaining something so that it links to the high school physics/chem/biology everyone knows (Jurassic Park, etc)? I’d rather read a good story than a scientifically accurate one; which is why I now buy Starstormers volumes whenever I spot them and I’m slowly building the complete set (alongside my collection of Edgar Rice Burroughs – if you want inaccurate science…) I’m a children’s writer myself, but I’ve switched from SF to fantasy as I found myself getting hung up on plausibilty. I think this is best expressed in Fisk’s own words from around the time of his 85th birthday.

    “I came fairly late to children’s writing. It was a Puffin list that
    showed me the light. I was looking for a copy of Geoffrey Household’s
    Rogue Male and found it in Puffin. I thought, if the publisher thinks
    fit to offer this title to children, the world must be changing. For
    the better.

    “Most of my output for children has been science fiction. The SF
    writer is fortunate in that, unhampered by present or past, he can
    invent his own games, rules and players. He is unfortunate in that he
    must make these matters clear–and explanation is the enemy of
    narration. Also, unfortunately, the genre is still not quite
    respectable, not quite nice. Perhaps the word science offends the nice
    palate? It offends mine. I am not a scientist, my books are not
    centered on the sciences. They are stories of possibility. Not SF, but
    IF–what would happen IF.”

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