Children's fiction

THE XENOCIDE MISSION. By Ben Jeapes. Doubleday pound;10.99

What makes ideal holiday reading? For many of us, it is a fantasy tale that fleshes out our innermost impulses. Do you want to save the galaxy? Here's your chance, with added power portals, half-friendly androids and laser weapons. Do you want horrible aliens that turn out to be all mushy deep down? Here they are, with added tentacles. Do you want love interest? Here she is, with added perfect figure, deep blue eyes and world-beating bravery.

Add a bit of chippy boy-humour and a snap-crackling pop of a plot based on misunderstandings, quick confrontations and a sneaky dash of unspeakable evil, and you have a good recipe for keeping teenage and sub-teenage boys occupied on a dull summer's day.

Although Jeapes's second novel rises above such formulaic plains, it is based on an understanding of the formulae. The blurb reads: "From the first totally unexpected laser bolt" (totally unexpected? Surely not).

Jeapes canters through the territory with gusto, telling the tale of a young astronaut trapped on an alien planet with a bolshie android and two extra-terrestrial prisoners. While he learns a bit about preconceptions, his middle-aged but gallant hero father sets out to rescue him, despite politicking opponents.

The aliens, a kind of hybrid of somebody's mum and an octopus, worry about who will hurt whom on the "Dead World". Luckily, all turns out well.

This is an entertaining read, and not only for boys aged 10-15 who can read about phasers and transporters without being irritated by their implausibility. Other young readers will also enjoy this escapade, hung on the strong thread of the father-son bond, over the churning abyss of futurama.

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