Hatch: Oppel’s alien invasion remains full of action

Hatch by Kenneth Oppel science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviews Hatch by Kenneth Oppel science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsHatch by Kenneth Oppel

Hatch (2020) is Kenneth Oppel’s continuation of his MG alien invasion tale that began with Bloom. Oppel maintains the fast-paced excitement, keeping his focus on the three young protagonists Petra, Anaya, and Seth, while adding a few new characters as well. Fans of book one will not be disappointed, save by a killer of a cliffhanger ending. Inevitable spoilers for book one ahead.

In the first book, aliens were softening up Earth and preparing it for their impending invasion by seeding our planet with various deadly plant species that weren’t just dangerous to touch or eat but were actively carnivorous, though their biggest danger was a growth rate that was quickly obliterating humanity’s food crops. Meanwhile, the three young characters (spoiler alert — seriously, stop now) began to change, each in unique fashion, with Seth sprouting feathers, Anaya claws and powerful legs, and Petra a tail, all connected to what they learned was alien DNA in their bodies. In Hatch, fauna follows flora, as the aliens continue their efforts to weaken Earth, this time with horrible, deadly creatures (if Bloom called up some echoes of Day of the Triffids, the sequel will have you fondly recalling any of numerous monster-movies).

Meanwhile, the three young teens have been sent to a secret underground bunker along with others like them, where they are poked, prodded, and tested even as their bodies continue to change. It soon becomes clear, though, that the head of the secret base doesn’t necessarily have their best interests at heart, leaving the kids to decide which place or group is more dangerous to them, the humans in their bunker or the alien monsters roaming the outside.

Bloom Kenneth OppelAs a series, THE OVERTHROW is firmly in the MG/YA mode. There’s not a great deal of detailed world-building or in-depth musings on issues. That’s not a complaint, just a note that while enjoyable enough for older audiences, it’s really not a “crossover” novel so much.

On the other hand, and more to the target audience’s pleasure, it’s a fast-paced adventure story with dangerous monsters, alien invasions, mad scientists (kind of), adults who can be trusted mixed in with adults who can’t so that nobody is sure which is which, and a focus on body changes that are both dreaded and desirous, that last something any pre-teen and teen can relate to.

And if Hatch speeds along with lots of exciting action scenes, that isn’t to say Oppel doesn’t slow down to offer up some quieter moments of introspection or dialogue that will hit home with the reader on topics such as how one sees oneself versus how other do, feelings of abandonment by friends or adults, a desire to be liked, to be pretty, to be listened to, and others. Characterization is concise and minimalist, but it’s a testament to Oppel’s skill that they all still come across as rich, three-dimensional creations who are impossible not to root for.

Recommended for both younger and older-teen readers.

Published in December 2020. Fans left desperate for more at the end of Bloom will dive into this second book of the Overthrow trilogy–where the danger mounts and alien creatures begin to hatch. First the rain brought seeds. Seeds that grew into alien plants that burrowed and strangled and fed. Seth, Anaya, and Petra are strangely immune to the plants’ toxins and found a way to combat them. But just as they have their first success, the rain begins again. This rain brings eggs. That hatch into insects. Not small insects. Bird-sized mosquitos that carry disease. Borer worms that can eat through the foundation of a house. Boat-sized water striders that carry away their prey. But our heroes aren’t able to help this time–they’ve been locked away in a government lab with other kids who are also immune. What is their secret? Could they be…part alien themselves? Whose side are they on? Kenneth Oppel expertly escalates the threats and ratchets up the tension in this can’t-read-it-fast-enough adventure with an alien twist. Readers will be gasping for the next book as soon as they turn the last page…

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BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

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One comment

  1. These sound like a good winter, rainy-day read.

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