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Book review: Orson Scott Card teams up with his daughter to create 'Laddertop'

"LADDERTOP, Volume 1," by Orson Scott Card and Emily Janice Card, illustrated by Honoel A. Ibardolaza, Tor/Seven Seas, $10.99, 192 pages (f)

In his new graphic novel "Laddertop, Volume 1," author Orson Scott Card teams up with his daughter, Emily Janice Card, to explore one of his common themes — extraordinary children who are placed in extraordinary circumstances.

The result is a compelling first volume of a science fiction series that will appeal strongly to young adult readers — specifically young women, since the protagonists of the book are two 11-year-old girls.

The Laddertops are four space stations located 36,000 miles in space and tethered to Earth with giant towers. The stations were built 25 years before the story begins by a race of aliens called the Givers, who never appeared outside their spacecraft and who disappeared shortly after the stations were built.

The aliens' gift provides all of Earth's power, eliminating pollution and poverty. But the Laddertop stations are designed so only children with the necessary skills and training can maintain them.

While the visions of 11-year-olds moving around in zero gravity to perform crucial tasks carries echos of Card's popular "Ender's Game," that's where the similarities end, at least in volume 1.

The focus of this story is the adventure of Robbi and Azure, students at Deerfield Middle School who are drafted to the Laddertop Academy to compete for the coveted jobs as the "web rats" who maintain the stations and keep the power flowing to Earth.

It's a fun read, aided by the dynamic artwork of illustrator Honel A. Ibardolaza, which will appeal to young readers but may disorient some adult readers who are not familar with the manga-type graphics.

And the cliff-hanger ending will leave readers waiting anxiously for the next installment.

"Laddertop" includes one mild epithet used by an adult, who apoligizes in the following frame, and includes some unsavory adults. But the events are handled with good taste, including scenes of space sickness experienced by the children during zero-gravity training.

Marc Haddock has been a newspaperman for 35 years and is currently a marketing writer for Xactware Solutions. He lives in American Fork.