Epic science fiction for kids, sumptuously illustrated, as one might expect from the breathtakingly talented Tony DiTerlizzi. Long but somehow a very fast read - I wouldn't have believed it, it's not like the margins are extra-wide or the typeface extra-big, but my 8-year-old read 120 pages between dinner and bedtime one night last week.
The main character, 12-year-old Eva Nine, is seemingly the only human on a strange planet, the indigenous population of which includes large grazing animals, birds, and plant/animal chimeras of varying degrees of intelligence. These species bear some resemblance to animals and plants that exist at the very edge of weird in current zoology - lichen that travel, protists that seem to think, microscopic carnivorous plants. Pretty cool.
Eva, who has lived her entire life in an underground shelter, raised by a robot with an extra-good emotion simulation program, emerges to find herself in this strange world, which by the way has been colonized by other strange creatures - blue kangaroo-y items, and little guys with lots of arms, and big scary teethy people - and to search for other humans. You can always count on science fiction for a good coming-of-age metaphor.
The story of Eva Nine, while plot-driven and action-packed, is a put it down and pick it up kind of book. It is so long and so episodic, it's a book a kid could have going over a period of weeks or even months, like an old-fashioned serial in a magazine. Honestly, it reads like nothing so much as a comic book, and coming from me, that is not criticism. One could imagine a lot of further adventures for Eva Nine and her traveling companions on the fabulous world called Orbona.
I would be remiss were I not to mention the space-age website for this book, one that does some crazy thing with a webcam and the illustrations in the book to create what looks like simulated holograms of the terrain Eva travels through. I don't have a copy of the book with final art, or a webcam, so I haven't tried it out, but it looks like it will add a cool immersive component to an already cool book.