Clang! Clang! Clang! Clang! Clang! The sound of breaking bones.
"Cleaners," whispered Edgar.
The clanging of thousands of bony legs rushed beneath him. He could see the shadows of Cleaners shooting past in a herd toward the falling trees.
I've never seen ones that big, Edgar thought in awe. He could only make out their shadows, but it appeared these Cleaners were two or three times bigger than any that had lived on Atherton.
They must be thirty feet long or more! He thought. Two bites and Cleaners this big could remove every trace of Edgar from the Dark Planet.
Edgar faces more dangers than he ever anticipated when he makes his way into the Dark Planet --- formerly known as "Earth." The dreaded Cleaners are only one element in his dangerous journey. Following instructions from the brilliant, sometimes mad Dr. Max Harding, Edgar must risk his life to complete this mission. His instructions have come through a technological wonder created by Dr. Harding "before" the doctor's untimely death. Dr. Harding created Atherton in the hopes of providing a livable environment away from the diseased and dying earth. But his creativity did not stop there --- he also created Edgar: "I made you, Edgar. Just as I made Atherton." While Edgar accepts that Dr. Harding is his father and did love him, it is still hard for him to understand his own role in this strange mission to the Dark Planet.
Edgar leaves behind his friends, Samuel and Isabel, and is told to trust no one in Atherton --- especially Dr. Kincaid (who is his mentor) and his dear friend Vincent. Only later does Edgar understand the implications of these instructions and why they are so vital in revealing the final secrets that lie between Atherton and the Dark Planet.
Once on the Dark Planet, the boy is thrown into another world --- probably not unlike Atherton when it was under the power of Dr. Phineas (read the previous books to understand more about the strange Dr. Phineas) --- and begins to unravel some of the mysteries. By using a devise known as The Raven, he is guided to his father's birthplace known as Silo/Station Seven. Dr. Harding's childhood was spent as an orphan at the Silo. Edgar finds this area of the earth even more colorless, barren and filled with toxic fumes. It is run by an evil, ruthless woman known as Judix and her mindless cronies, Red Eye and Socket. The Silo uses children as slaves, and they work in unspeakable conditions, receiving beatings regularly from Silo and Socket.
During his explorations Edgar is captured and brought to work alongside the other children in the Silo. He also discovers that one adult is truly a friend. Her name is Hope, and she struggles to provide some kind of protection for the children. During this time he gets to know and befriends Aggie, Teagan, Landon and Vasher. These relationships and the total injustice of what is happening make him all the more determined to escape --- and to take Hope and his friends with him.
Meanwhile, Samuel and Isabel have decided to find Edgar because they know he must be in grave danger. Their explorations lead them into some of the deep, dark caverns running beneath the Flatlands, and it is here they are confronted by a giant dragon named Gossamer. Is Gossamer their enemy or their friend?
With all of these characters gathered on the Dark Planet, it suddenly seems totally hopeless that they will overcome the obstacles before them. Dragons, Cleaners, Spikers, the strange people working under Judix's command and the ever-threatening environment are overwhelming to them. Do they have any chance, and who can they really trust?
This final book in the Atherton trilogy definitely begins to explain more fully many of the happenings that have led to the awful situation in which our characters find themselves. Despite their cleverness and cunning, will they meet up and be able to beat the odds against them? Patrick Carman again successfully creates an awesome adventure with mesmerizing images. His messages concerning environmental issues ring loud and strong. Readers should start with ATHERTON: THE HOUSE OF POWER to better understand the complexity of all that is happening. What a great series for some powerful discussions about our natural world today.
--- Reviewed by Sally M. Tibbetts