Review by Frank Plowright
No-one from Earth has ever been selected for the Kayrus Academy and the chance to become a Space Ranger, but that doesn’t stop farm boy Benson from dreaming he’ll be the first.
Opening scenes of farm chores taking place in 3115 are amusingly drawn by Ron Chan as if 2015, only with a few jet cars and strange animals, but that’s his only chance to draw the day to day as we learn Benson’s dream has come true. Chan’s art was already charming and detailed, but acceptance to the academy accelerates the sense of wonder, which Chan then delivers with every packed painted panel. Just take a look at his design pages at the back to see how much work he put in.
Amazingly, those panels still make room for Paul Tobin’s equally dense captions. He uses these at the beginning to underline Benson’s sense of wonder at a new galaxy and packs in a lot of information, some of which pays off later, some of which is colour, and some of which is plain funny, but it’s all creative, like on the sample art featuring twins. Benson’s passage is an everyman journey, and Tobin relatively quickly answers the questions about his admission, which disappoints him and provides ammunition for others.
Tobin doesn’t conceal that Earth Boy is going to be a coming of age story about triumphing against the odds, although this may not be apparent to younger readers, but his version of it is invested with considerable wit and charm, and a nice line in analogies. These reinforce that no two people are alike, and no-one should be judged on that basis, an important lesson to learn when young, while also offering some sound advice to any young reader not entirely at home within the school system. This isn’t preaching, and is accompanied by realism, rather than the message that anything can be overcome with enough saluting the flag.
All that’s before the real adventure starts, though, when Benson realises just how much he’s learned, and not just at the Academy, in overcoming a selection of creative threats. Accompanying him for the ride is a joyful privilege and more fun than a Queen’s Jubilee.