Review by Ian Keogh
Cover star Shafer has largely been a bit player over the course of Space Boy, appearing every now and then, usually in connection with his passion for Tammie, recently returned from her abduction. Concerned about Tammie being missing, in Space Boy 14 he generated suspense via trusting government agent James Silber, who Stephen McCranie made very clear is absolutely untrustworthy, which is reinforced here. Shafer seemed to be heading down a dangerous and possibly fatal path, but McCranie uses him well, now again suspicious and allied with Cassie who was already angered by her treatment.
Also undertaking a joint investigation are Amy and Qiana within the FCP, their friendship developing despite Qiana’s reluctance and downbeat character. An event that’s sparked a fair amount of activity within the FCP recently is the death of archaeologist Aleksander Lesnik. Readers who’ve followed the entire series know who’s responsible, so are a step ahead of Amy and Qiana, but why he was killed hasn’t been revealed. They are on the right track in suspecting it’s connected with Commander Saito’s disappearance.
Given almost all the prominent characters are in their teens, this is McCranie switching genres once again. The trappings might still have an SF tinge, but most of Space Boy 15 drops squarely into the tradition of teenage investigative fiction with all the clues and suspense associated with the genre. It’s also an example of how far ahead McCranie plots. Although attention was drawn at the time, a detail most people will have barely noticed in Space Boy 12 is now revealed to have considerable significance. What results from that is also clever. Having removed Shafer’s trust of Silber, McCranie instead has Amy react positively to him, triggering warning bells for readers.
McCranie’s art is perhaps undervalued in these reviews, but that’s because it services his story so well, and that story keeps the pages turning. One talent is designing distinctive people. Somewhere in the region of twenty have had ongoing roles in Space Boy to date, and the character designs ensure every one of them can be distinguished from the remainder instantly. It’s also worth pointing out how well McCranie conveys how anyone feels at any given time.
There’s a surprise at the end, where McCrainie introduces another new genre, but revealing what would drop into spoiler territory. By now, though, we ought to know that it’ll have some later purpose despite seeming not to at the moment. The mysteries aren’t solved here, and no reader will need encouraged to head for Space Boy 16.