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The New World Order, by Ben Jeapes
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Publisher: David Fickling Books
Published: 2005
Review Posted: 9/10/2005
Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 7 out of 10

The New World Order, by Ben Jeapes

Book Review by Pete S. Allen

Have you read this book?

Where was I when they started putting naughty bits into kids' books? Now, admittedly, there wasn't the variety of F/SF books out there for "young adults" that there is now, way back in the 70's when that particular phrase described me, but I managed to read what there was. And I'm reasonably sure that while I felt that most authors were pretty respectful to their young readers, there was also a certain amount of stuff going on that I only found out about by reading the adults' books. A move from Lewis, Alexander, LeGuin and Tolkien to Bradbury, Bester, Zelazny and Heinlein (and Tolkien), if you will.

So. We have Ben Jeapes' The New World Order, recommended by the Library Journal for Grades 7+, and by B&N for ages 12+. For the love of God, don't let the ratings people in government find out. The main character has an illegitimate son, there's tons of good, gory violence (though that's probably not really a problem--never mind), a bit of racy dialogue, implied sexuality (and noises) and I think the S-word gets used once. In other words, nothing you wouldn't find on TV, but for some reason, whenever we're honest with kids in books, they get banned. Never mind that the author is writing realistically, treating his characters and readers with the honesty and respect for their own reality, and not dumbing things down or talking down to his readers. Let's just sum my feelings about this book up by saying that I was pleasantly and amazingly surprised--I'm not entirely sure how this book made it into the young adult category, but I'm very happy it's there.

Now, for the story--during the English Civil War, the tide is turned in favour of the Roundheads by the sudden appearance of modern rifles and gunpowder. Our main character, John Donder, is very disturbed to find this happening on his return visit to England, and rightfully so, as his race of men, the Holekhor, are the only ones with access to that kind of technology, and he's pretty sure the English aren't getting rifles from him. So being the good general that he is, he communicates with his government and invades England on behalf of the emperor. On the way, he discovers a bastard son (gasp), blows some things up (not ALL of Parliament--just enough to make them take him seriously) and ends the Revolution. Cromwell and his fellows go underground as freedom fighters, along with the rebel Holekhor that were supplying them with the weapons in the first place. Anything more I tell you would be spoiling.

The New World Order is one of the best alternate history/science fiction tales that I've read in some time, with good solid historical personages behaving consistently with their biographical information. All of the characters are very well defined and likeable, and there are elements of mysticism and some very real explorations of religion and war (especially regarding imposed ideologies, ahem) and their consequences on people of all timelines. Plus, it's just a good, solid, readable story that hooks from the first pages and keeps that hook in the reader for its entirety. Fans of Harry Harrison and Eric Flint will be very pleased with this book, and if it's not nominated for a Sidewise award, I'm writing a letter.

It's not often that I feel like thanking an author for writing--I quite often enjoy a book of course, but I have, after all, bought it--so, fair trade. Rarely do I feel I haven't gotten my money's worth, but just as rarely do I feel a sense of actual gratitude toward an author for his (or her) work (see above list). I wish this book had been available when I was 15 or so--but I'm happy to have read it now, and I'm reassured to know there are really good books out there for kids that truly take into account their reality. This is a book that does this, entertaining without pandering, and teaching without preaching, which is no mean trick for any book, much less one aimed at the younger reader.
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