When Gregor falls through a grate in the laundry room of his apartment building, he hurtles into the dark Underland, where spiders, rats, cockroaches coexist uneasily with humans. This world is on the brink of war, and Gregor's arrival is no accident. A prophecy foretells that Gregor has a role to play in the Underland's uncertain future. Gregor wants no part of it -- until he realizes it's the only way to solve the mystery of his father's disappearance. Reluctantly, Gregor embarks on a dangerous adventure that will change both him and the Underland forever.
In a cavernous world beneath New York City, humans who long ago emigrated from the "Overland" live side-by-side with super-intelligent bats and loyal giant cockroaches. In a charming tip of the literary hat, debut novelist Collins introduces her young heroes Gregor and his little sister Boots into a wonderland through a trip down a long hole-in this case, an opening in a wall of their apartment building's laundry room. While passionately trying to find a way back home, 11-year-old Gregor learns about the Underlanders, their history and their unusual customs. Before long, Vikus, the noble patriarch of the Underlanders, reveals to Gregor an ancient prophecy-and why he believes that the boy is the foretold "overland warrior," come to liberate them from the giant rats. The relationship between Gregor and two-year-old Boots embodies much of the book's charm, and Gregor himself grows up before readers' eyes. His love for his lost father factors heavily into his personality; in a stunning turn of events, he discovers the reason for the disappearance of his father-who also plays a role in the prophecy. Collins does a grand job of world-building, with a fine economy of words-no unnecessary details bog down either the setting or the invigorating story. In her world, a child singing "Patty-Cake" can change the course of history and a stoic rat can mourn the fact that although he is able to read, he cannot write because he has no thumb. Unlike Gregor who cannot wait to leave, readers will likely find it to be a fantastically engaging place. Ages 8-12. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.