Phil Meade,
PsiScouts 1: At Risk
(Speed-of-C, 2003)

PsiScouts 1: At Risk is the first in a series of books centering around an organisation of psychically talented teenagers. When the magnetic kinetic talents of stowaway Royd and the electrical field control of confident Gael help save the spaceship they are traveling on, they are given first-class passage to continue on to Earth. While on board that transit, they meet megabillionaire Colleen Ardtveldt, a busy but compassionate and friendly businesswoman, and another teenager, the aloof and telepathic Iris. When Iris, with the help of Royd and Gael, foils an assassination attempt on Colleen, they are swept into a new destiny, a vision held by Colleen to try and save the "at-risk" youth in worlds all across the galaxy.

Their lives irrevocably changed, the original triad of so-called "PsiScouts" soon attract more unusual talents into the organisation. While the psychics find themselves the new heroes of Earth -- at least to anyone under 18 -- they also begin to build the foundations of a program for children and teens, educating, clothing and feeding them, giving them honourable goals and helping them achieve them. The book concentrates on the derring-do of the group, now given nicknames to reflect their individual talents -- another assassination attempt, gang-warfare, hostage release and the theft of a priceless and ancient artifact all fall under their remit, and they deal with other teenagers, adults and authority figures such as the police, while also coping with their new-found superstardom and interacting with each other and the "net-press."

Phil Meade tells the story at a fast pace, skimming over many details in order to keep the story happening and the action never too far away. The style should appeal to anyone with a reading age of 9 or above, and made for a diverting hour or so for this 30-something reviewer! The various talents of the youngsters should appeal to anyone with a science-fiction fascination -- it reads a bit like X-Men meet The Power Rangers! There is a strong camaraderie forming between the PsiScouts (six of them by the end of the book) and there are messages of good-over-evil, youth-over-age, don't-judge-people-at-first-glance and together-we-are-stronger for those who care to look for that sort of thing.

This is a pleasant read, with some interesting concepts within the telepathic abilities, and a good book of its type for its target age-group.

- Rambles
written by Jenny Ivor
published 12 June 2004

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