Sci-fi six find pens are as mighty as swords
For more than a year, six boys at an ordinary Kent secondary school have been grappling with demons, ninjas and zombies - while trying to get their homework finished.
As editorial consultants on The 5 Lords of Pain series, Tom Pearman, Sean Campbell, Richard Brant, Billy Elliott, James Wright and Nathan Morgan ploughed through the manuscripts of top science fiction author James Lovegrove with pens in hand, ready to remove overcomplicated phrases and clunky teenspeak.
The books are about 15-year-old Tom Yamada, who must save the world by fighting a series of duels with the Lords of Pain.
"Tom has got a normal life," said Sean, 14, of Coopers Technology College, Chislehurst. "He does stuff we do, like going to school. Then he does all this different stuff. It was quite exciting reading through it and getting to the end of the books before anyone else did."
The books are published by Barrington Stoke, which specialises in books for reluctant readers - plots that interest older children but use accessible language.
Although the books were spot on, there was one disappointment for the boys. When Mr Lovegrove, 44, turned up at school to thankthem for their work, he was driving a Volvo Estate.
Mr Lovegrove said: "They said: 'Is that your car? I thought you'd have a Ferrari.' I think I may have gone down in their estimation.
"However, it was really interesting meeting them. I loved it. They were a bit shy, but when they warmed up they were funny and asked great questions, including the hardest, which is: 'Where do you get your ideas from?'
"For me, the whole process has been very instructive about how to clean up my own prose, even when I'm writing adult novels or journalism. It's about clarity above all else."
Class teacher Sue Gillespie said the project had a great effect on her pupils. "They knew they had a job, not a make-believe role, a proper job to report back to the publishers.
"For a lot of children, if they fall behind with reading that's the end of it, but this is one of the best projects I have seen to get their reading going. I'm so proud of what they have achieved."
'If he failed, it would be the end of the world'
Extract from The Lord of the Mountain by James Lovegrove (book one of The 5 Lords of Pain series)
"Fifteen years from now, you will be called on to face the hardest trial any man has ever faced," Dragon said. "The Contest. Fifteen years may seem like a long way off. It may seem like a date in the far future. But trust me, the time will go like this." He clicked his fingers. "And when the fateful day arrives, you must be ready. Or else... all is lost."
Dragon let those last three words echo round the room. All is lost. Tom had heard them many times before. He knew what lay in store for him 15 years from now, when he turned 30. He knew what the stakes were. But still those three words had the power to send a cold shiver through him.
If he failed, if he lost the Contest, it would be the end of the world. Half the human race would be killed.