Review by Ian Keogh
After six volumes of improving high school drama, albeit set in the 34th century, Stephen McCranie promoted his secondary action mystery to the forefront, and this volume picks up immediately after the end of Space Boy 8. Amy and Oliver are still at the Homecoming dance, Cassie is being rescued from the boot of a car, and we discover where the seemingly obsessed Commander Saito has gone.
There’s some clever plotting early on here as far as she’s concerned, not exactly redeeming her entirely, but certainly providing plausible reasons for some of her extreme actions. However, that’s only if she’s telling the truth. After all the personal revelations about Oliver over the past two books it’s now the turn of the FCP’s secrets and methods to come into the light. McCranie doesn’t just drop the information, though. It comes out via some nuanced characterisation. A conversation between Saito and her commanding officer is rendered even more interesting by her being affected by an earlier conversation. If the feeling has been that McCranie’s storytelling features emotional torment, but steers clear of other unpleasantness you’ll have a different opinion once the black bordered pages end. Let’s just say there’s little sentimentality in a government-run spy organisation that oversees itself.
Space Boy 9 is a book of two halves. The first is set on Earth, and the remainder far out in space several years beforehand. A spacecraft called the Arno has been mentioned as integral to ongoing events, and there’s now a look back to Oliver as a child. There are a couple of small items revealed, one being where the Space Boy title comes from, but unless McCranie is slipping something by readers, which is always a possibility, this isn’t compelling drama. Even allowing for the deliberate extension of tension, it’s a return to the early days of Space Boy when too many pages were occupied by very little happening. However, the book closes before completing the flashback, so there may be a pay-off in Space Boy 10.
If you prefer your Space Boy in larger chunks, this is combined with the previous two volumes in the third Space Boy Omnibus.