November 11, 2017

cleopatra in space

Cleopatra in Space: Target Practice

Mike Maihack

Pub. 2014

176 pgs.

Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Graphic Novel

Summary / Review / TLDR / Recommended For / Issues / Themes / Grade


Summary

Fifteen-year-old Cleopatra VII isn’t looking forward to becoming queen. She’d rather run around goofing off than listen to another boring math lecture from her tutor. However, she isn’t prepared for her latest jaunt through the ruins to take her from everything she knows—literally. After activating a mysterious tablet, Cleo is transported far into the future.

Once she arrives, she’s told that she is the one destined to save not only the planet Mayet, where she’s landed, but the entire universe. The evil warlord Xiaus Octavian has stolen all electronic knowledge, and his army, the Xerx, are using it to expand their empire wherever they can. The prophecies of Mayet say that Cleo can stop them.

But first, she needs training. Without knowledge of the futuristic weaponry, as well as a well-rounded education, how can she possibly live up to everyone’s expectations? On top of that, Cleo has other students to contend with, a cadre of stuffy feline teachers, and a deadly test to contend with. Sure, she’ll save the universe—if she can survive long enough to do it!

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Review

Cleopatra in Space: Target Practice hooks you right at the start with an action sequence straight out of Star Trek Into Darkness or Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s an auspicious beginning for Maihack’s book, which is the first in a beautifully-illustrated graphic novel series geared towards an upper-elementary and middle-school audience. Unfortunately, the momentum loses its steam and flaws become apparent.

In true cinematic fashion, the reader is yanked into a flashback that takes up the vast majority of the book. The rest of the plot struggles to fulfill the promise of that initial adrenaline rush as Cleo zaps to the future, argues with some cats, meets her roommate, and sleeps through class. There are a few high points here and there; some of Maihack’s gags are genuinely funny. However, he definitely uses the same gag repeatedly, so by the fifth time I was just rolling my eyes instead of giggling.

Cleo is an interesting enough character with a lot of spunk and heart. She has a magnetic personality, drawing other characters and readers in with her sense of adventure. That being said, I was surprised that she didn’t seem to care at all that, in traveling to the future, she had no way back. She doesn’t seem to miss anyone from home, not even her friend who snuck out with her to the ruins. The sociopathic reaction to losing everything she’d ever known clashes with everything else we’re told and shown about her personality. Maiheck also tells us early on that she’s fifteen, but the way she acts seems far younger than that. I would peg her for eleven, maybe twelve at the oldest. Given the amount of responsibilities she would have as future queen, it was definitely something that broke my suspension of disbelief.

The rest of the cast has very little in the way of personality or memorability. The talking cat, Khensu, has a few funny moments, and Cleo’s roommate, Akila, seems upbeat all the time. I just didn’t get an idea of who each of them were apart from “serious” and “enthusiastic,” respectively.

Equally frustrating is the antagonist. Xaius and the Xerx don’t actually show up in the book at all, aside from the brief mention of them at the beginning. In fact, there really wasn’t much of an antagonist at all, unless you count a few critters at the beginning and a small handful of mummies later on. Other than that, Cleo is shown to be the best at anything physical, and no one bothers to oppose her (or even interact with her, really) in any way. This lack left a gaping hole where the tension should have been, and by the time the story caught up with the exciting beginning, I was counting down the pages until the end of the book.

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TLDR

Middle school readers will probably devour this, especially if they go into it just looking for a fun read.

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Recommended for…

  • Strong girls
  • Fans of Rick Riordan
  • Kids who like blended genres

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Issues

  • Deception: characters trick others throughout to avoid things they don’t want to do
  • Lying: characters lie to get themselves out of trouble
  • Violence: characters fight physically
  • Weapon Use: characters use weapons in combat

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Themes

  • Change vs. Tradition
  • Education
  • Friendship
  • Good vs. Evil
  • Heroism
  • Identity

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Grade

Main Character 2
Subcast 1
Setting Development 1
Exploration of Conflict 2
Satisfying Resolution 1
Consideration of Themes 2
Didactic Tone 1
Suspension of Disbelief 2
Imagery and Description 2
Compelling Storytelling 1
Author’s Style 2
Rhythm and Pace of Book 1
Mechanics (spelling, grammar, punctuation) 2
Predictability 1
Reader Enjoyment 1
Total 22/30
73%

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