Phoenix by S F Said illustrated by Dave McKean
There are not many science fiction books for children out there; perhaps because any writer who decides to boldly go heavenwards risks playing with the scientific rule book, where the fantasy universe plays no part. Here the author of the wonderful Varjak Paw books whizzes up a heady mix of physics, astronomy, mythology and pan-galactic war for a post-Potter readership.
We are introduced to Lucky, who lives with his mother, under the radar of the authorities and also of the mysterious shadow guards who have an alarming ability to scan your brain for memories and Anything Untoward. Thought Police vs Dementors maybe. Lucky has grown up during an increasingly intractable war between the human race and aliens who left the earth for the stars before mankind had fully evolved, leaving a memory of the significance of the zodiac. This may already be stretching credulity among the fraternity of physicists but Said also injects some modern buzzwords and geeky details that keep the story zipping along on the right side of sci-fi credulity.
Suffice to say that Lucky is soon on his own trying to find the truth about his father located somewhere in the universe, while dealing with a personal immolation problem that points towards some power unseen since the gods became stars themselves. He is accompanied on his journeys of self-discovery by a motley crew of alien seers, sages, startalkers, warriors and a Phoenix. Guided by his father's astrolabe we are whisked through the galaxies packed with wonders and surprises, some of which are courtesy of chief astronomer McKean who manages to render the subatomic and interstellar connections, and the zodiac of dark matter and incandescence from splashes of turbulent negative space.
It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness, as the old adage goes.
You Are My Lucky Star, as Gene Kelly sang in Singing in the Rain.