Tendai, his little sister and their younger brother escape from their splendid home to explore their dangerous city. Tendai is motivated by wanting to earn a scouting badge, and he desperately wants to prove himself, as their overprotective father has always placed tight restrictions on what the siblings can and can't do.
Picking up where she left off in her highly successful debut, Do You Know Me , Farmer uses her knowledge of Africa to imagine a city in 23rd-century Zimbabwe, combining old traditions and speculative technology with delightfully entertaining results. In search of adventure, 13-year-old Tendai, his sister Rita and younger brother Kuda, the sheltered offspring of a maniacally rigid military general, break out of the family compound. The three are promptly kidnapped by the monstrous She Elephant, an ogre who lords over an abandoned toxic waste dump and forces its denizens to mine obsolete plastic products. They finally escape, but are captured anew and imprisoned in Resthaven, a cloistered community where the ancient African spiritual and farming traditions are practiced to the exclusion of all things modern. Meanwhile, the beleaguered general hires the Ear, the Eye and the Arm, three decidedly odd detectives who take advantage of their hyperdeveloped senses and features (the result of a nuclear accident) to track down the children. The madcap game of chase and escape clips along as the author plies her playful, sly sense of humor on a wonderfully silly cast of secondary characters, spirits and Jetsonian gadgets. This tale overflows with wise insights, lessons and observations about the ties between heritage and family. Farmer is emerging as one of the best and brightest authors for the YA audience. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)