Steven Gould is best known for his novel Jumper (Tor, 1992), which was later made into a movie starring Hayden Christensen. Like 7th Sigma, Jumper features a teenager and was marketed to an adult audience.
7th Sigma is a science fiction adventure story that combines a number of teen interests. Cory Doctorow’s blurb says it best, “Sheer adventure: full of engaging, nerdily detailed depictions of the minutiae of Aikido, spycraft, artificial life theory, frontier economics, religious zealotry, Zen meditation, and beautiful descriptions of the southwestern landscape. It has the true pulp adventure serial spirit.” You can read Doctorow’s full review on Boing Boing. He’s absolutely right to say that 7th Sigma could have been marketed as a YA novel. Perhaps length and the occasional profanity? Perhaps the unexplored origins of the deadly bugs? Or maybe the publisher did not want to exclude the author’s many adult fans.
I love this excerpt from Gould’s biography: He is the recipient of the Hal Clement Young Adult Award for Science Fiction [for Wildside] and has been on the Hugo ballot twice and the Nebula ballot once for his short fiction, but his favorite distinction was being on the American Library Associations Top 100 Banned Books list 1990-1999. “Jumper was right there at #94 between Steven King’s Christine and a non-fiction book on sex education. Then that Rowling woman came along and bumped us off the bottom of the list.”
And just to add one more layer, the whole thing is Gould’s take on Rudyard Kipling’s Kim. I’ll let the author explain it himself.
Finally, 7th Sigma has a great cover, much more impressive than the image below communicates. It will grab the attention of readers browsing through a display.
Adult/High School–When the American southwest was infested by lethal metal-eating bugs, most citizens left the Territory for safer climes. A hardy few stayed on. Thirteen-year-old Kimble counted himself lucky when his abusive father was forced to leave for medical treatment. He’s been hiding from the authorities and happily living by his wits, homeless in Nuevo Santa Fe, ever since. One day a newcomer happens to observe his quick reflexes. Ruth persuades Kimble to help her establish a dojo south of the city, where she plans to teach aikido. He becomes her uchideski, her student, and together they build a household. Living in the Territory is like frontier days in the Old West, also echoed in the importance of water, which bugs cannot tolerate. When Ruth suffers from severe asthma, Kimble travels to retrieve medication and encounters Captain Bentham of the territorial Rangers. Bentham recognizes him as a runaway, but instead of returning him to his father, he recruits Kimble as a spy for the Territory, the youngest ever. So begins a series of adventures during which Kimble outsmarts criminals from drug dealers to weapons smugglers. He rarely follows directions; he has his own audacious ideas of how to accomplish each job. 7th Sigma wears its science-fiction mantle lightly, mostly via substitute technologies for metal and a lack of modern transportation, tools, weapons, and amenities. Readers may be disappointed that the origin of the bugs is never investigated; neither are the other mysterious creatures that seem to collaborate with them. But add a sense of humor, genuine affection among engaging characters, and a grumpy mule sidekick for an adventure that is a natural for teen readers.–Angela Carstensen, Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City