Philbrick, Rodman. The Last Book in the Universe. Blue Sky Press, 2002. ISBN 978-0439087599 240 pp. $7.99
Spaz, an epileptic outcast unhappy with his role in a thieving street gang, learns his foster sister is dying of leukemia and crying out for him. Spaz journeys to visit her one last time, defying physical and social boundaries with the help of an ancient writer and a special young woman of the elite class. The narrator IS a Spaz, from the moment he steps on the page and starts spouting his story in a mix of hastily explained jargon. Spaz is a likable hero with an authentic voice.
More than just a journey story based on primal archetypes, Philbrick creates a futuristic society divided by class as result of a severe natural disaster. Within the plot he explores what the future might be like in terms of medicine, pollution, genetic engineering, family, culture and class. He brings in diversity issues by creating a protagonist who is an epileptic struggling to survive in a world of flashing computer images, and peoples the story with a multigenerational cast of characters.
The setting is completely realistic as a horrific vision of what could come to pass: synthesized people, living on synthesized foods, exposed only to synthesized images pumped into our brains by probes. Cyberpunk for middle-schoolers, this is a wonderfully fast paced sci-fi adventure with appeal to reluctant readers, fans of Lois Lowry and future Neal Stephenson readers.