Hunt for the Hydra (Jupiter Pirates, book one)
By Jason Fry
Published 2013 by HarperCollins
Tycho and his siblings love each other, of course. But they also know that only one of them will be named captain of their starship, so they can get a little competitive. As they begin to uncover a space conspiracy, each sibling is eager to prove their worth.
Another of our Cybils finalists, I must admit I had little interest in this book prior to its being named. I don't think it's a secret at this point that I generally don't care for things set in space - rare is the book that proves the exception this. Unfortunately, this book was not one such title.
I found the whole thing rather flat. Fry does not do a great job developing much of anything in this story - the worldbuilding is lackluster and the characterizations are underwhelming. I didn't care about the characters or what happened to them. I'm not sure I could explain the differences between the three siblings outside of a few superficial elements: one is good at flying, one is good at communications, etc. I was especially irritated with the character of their grandfather - I think he is supposed to be a bit of comic relief, but he reads like a caricature in the worst way. I also found it really frustrating that the whole premise of the story is about which child will ultimately be named captain of the Shadow Comet and then nothing much is really done with this story. It's mentioned several times throughout the book but, of course, as this is the first in a series, no conclusion is reached. Along with that, for the majority of the book, their mother (who is the current captain and the one who will make the final decision) is barely present and they don't seem to interact much with her. I expected a bit more conflict in this area. Similarly, I was frustrated that the actual "hunt for the Hydra" (for which the book is named) doesn't even occur until more than halfway through the book. And, when it does finally happen, it's extremely anticlimactic - in fact, I don't think I'd even really call it a hunt.
I wanted to like this book - obviously, it was named a finalist for my category of the Cybils, so I figured it had to have some merit. Additionally, science fiction for middle-grade readers is pretty hard to come by and the young patrons of my library get a genre assignment every fall that includes science fiction, so finding something good to recommend would be helpful. But this book just did not work for me.