by Myles Christensen
Thirteen-year-old Max Parker is a grounded Earthling with the soul of a space explorer. So when he learns his family is relocating to Jupiter’s moon, Europa, he readily agrees to stay out of trouble. But his promise is soon forgotten, and his snooping lands him on a shuttle doomed for a fiery disintegration.
Convinced someone sabotaged the craft to cover up the theft he witnessed, he digs into the incident. Why was this robbery worth attempted murder? Dodging a series of deadly accidents, he follows the clues to an abandoned outpost and discovers a secret that could blow the lid off a moon-wide conspiracy… Can Max solve the mystery before his interplanetary escapade gets him killed?
Frozen Secrets kicks off the thrilling, teen science fiction series, Europa Academy. It’s filled with fearless friends, high-orbit mysteries, and immersive worlds.
“Any last words?”
Max tore his gaze away from the towering heights of the old rocket hangar to look at his best friend, Jonathan.
“What kind of question is that?” Max shot back.
“You’re strapped to an antique jetpack! That we rebuilt!” Jonathan said. “The fuel lines might leak, the combustion chamber might explode, the nozzles might shear—”
“I’ll be fine. Besides, we’ve got the safety line, right?” Max tugged on the long rope snaking through the gantry railing high above him. “You’ll catch me if something goes wrong.”
Jonathan shrugged. “Maybe.”
Max smiled at his pessimistic friend and looked up at the cavernous space above them. Rays of late morning sunlight streamed through the tall windows. He took a deep breath of the musty air.
He had anticipated this moment for the last five months—ever since they had found the pieces of the jetpack and started reassembling it. Some minor safety details weren’t going to ruin his dreams of flying.
Jonathan’s voice brought him back. “You know, if you kill yourself, we’ll be grounded for the entire summer.”
“Hah! You can’t ground me!” Max grabbed the handgrips and squeezed the throttle.
The jetpack roared to life.
Max’s stomach dropped as he rocketed upward. The nozzles’ deafening blast drowned out his triumphant scream.
Take that, gravity.
Thirty meters up, he eased off the throttle, but the jetpack continued lurching and bucking.
“We need to fix the throttle,” Max yelled. “It’s way too sensitive.”
Jonathan shouted something in reply as he reeled in slack on the safety line.
Max tightened his grip on the control-stick and nudged it slightly. The jetpack tilted sideways as the vectored nozzles shoved him around the massive, empty expanse.
He felt like a bird! A strange metallic hummingbird that shot flames out its backside—but a bird all the same.
The jetpack’s exhaust swirled around him in the dusty morning air. It smelled like a burning tiki torch factory.
Max maneuvered back and forth inside the huge hangar, testing his abilities.
This jetpack would change everything.
He was finally free from the confines of Earth’s surface—from the curse of spending his entire life on the ground. He imagined streaking over the rooftops of his neighborhood. He would make a grand entrance on the first day of school, buzzing the front office and doing a low loop around the classroom windows before gently touching down on the front commons. Even the popular kids would know his name. Their perfect hair and perfect skin and perfect lives could never compete with a jetpack.
Max grinned from ear to ear as he hovered in front of the tall windows on the hangar door. He could just barely make out the skyscrapers of downtown Houston on the horizon. Max squeezed the throttle, hoping to catch a glimpse of his neighborhood.
The pack lurched. Glancing down at the fuel indicator, he saw that the needle hovered above the large letter “E”.
This can’t be right.
“And we should double check the fuel gauge,” he yelled down to Jonathan. “It says I’m about to run out of—”
A side access door clanged open, and a tall, broad-shouldered man stood silhouetted in the doorway. He gaped at Jonathan and then squinted up at Max, clearly trying to make sense of the bizarre scene.
Max instinctively squeezed the throttle. The jetpack thundered, launching several meters higher. A second later, the pack sputtered and the thrust vanished.
Max’s stomach rose in his throat.
He was falling.
The harness felt oppressive—dragging him down with the dying rocket.
Dread coursed through Max’s body.
The ground was so far down.
~Buy FROZEN SECRETS:
Middle grade sci-fi/fantasy is very much my jam, so when I got the opportunity to read Frozen Secrets, I jumped on it. Gotta say, I wasn’t disappointed. There are great friendships, fantastic adventures, big troubles, and amazing worlds—basically, everything I know and love about mg. Looking forward to the sequel!
The book takes place on Europa, Jupiter’s moon. I suspect the author’s never been there, but it very much felt like he had. The ice and the colors of light hitting the ice took my breath away. I felt the cold and didn’t breathe the air (because there is none). In short, this real place is made up from what a few probes have managed to find, but it felt completely real.
There was a lot of science in here. How could there not be with the setting? I applauded Christensen’s ability to include difficult scientific concepts at a level that kids (and adults who aren’t scientifically minded…hi) can understand. Honestly, I think eighth-graders would understand the science better than me, but I digress. The science here was fascinating and added to the story. The tech Christensen created was also so neat. I really want a high-tech dog racing sled. The bowl-shaped city on Europa utilized scientific theory to function. I’ll be honest. I didn’t get it all, but it was too neat for me to care about not grasping the finer scientific nuances.
The tension was strong, and I felt the characters’ emotions from beginning to end. Max (our protagonist) is a real kid with real issues in addition to the evil organization wanting him dead bit. The only thing that tripped me up was the amount of characters. I felt like a few pairs could have been combined to make the group more manageable to read about. Other than that, though, I breezed through this and, as I said, am excited for more Europa adventures.
AN INTERVIEW WITH MYLES
-What inspired you to become a writer?
I wrote a few short stories in high school and college, but just for fun. Then when my oldest children started reading, I thought I’d see if I could find space travel sci-fi books like the ones I’d grown up reading, but maybe more modern (the novels I’d read were written in the 60s). I’d hoped that the MG fantasy boom (Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, et al) had carried over into science fiction. But when I looked for space travel sci-fi books in the MG range, I couldn’t find anything that quite fit the bill. There were good books, but nothing like I remembered reading. So I decided I’d try to write the story I would have wanted to read as an early teen. All of that is to say that I started writing Frozen Secrets for my kids.
-If you could visit your book’s world for a day, what one thing would you do?
I’d take a trip to Space Station Gamma. Beyond the simple awesomeness of being in space, Space Station Gamma has the Bounce Hub which is where you can do all of the amazing floating, flying, jumping games you can imagine.
-It’s two in the morning. What does your protagonist reveal in confidence? (Don’t worry, we won’t tell.)
Max says that one time he snitched a cherry from the pineapple upside-down cake his dad had just finished. Then when his brother Drew was accused of doing it, Max let him take the blame. Max says he’s still working on feel on feeling sorry about it (the cherry was really good).
-Which of your characters would you go out for drinks with?
Jake would definitely be the most fun, although he might steal all of the attention.
-You’re in a tavern, and a dwarf challenges you to a duel. What do you do?
I would take out my recently sharpened double-headed battle ax and slam it hard enough into the nearest table to bury the blade three inches in the wood. This would obviously all be done as a show of force, because if the dwarf still wanted to duel, I’d have to run away screaming like a little child.
-Is there a genre you could never write? Which and why?
I could never write Horror. I can write suspenseful and dangerous scenes, but they almost always end well (for the good guys). I can barely even write people dying. So I guess Thriller would work, but definitely not Horror. I don’t even like to think about dark stuff.
-What interesting or random tidbit of information did you learn while researching your story?
Two of the locations in my story use spinning structures to create centripetal acceleration (which can approximate gravity). So I wanted to know how it would feel to live in artificial gravity. I read through several studies performed by the government during the space race. Because it’s not true gravity, there’s something called “artificial gravity wind” that happens when things are dropped or tossed inside a spinning structure. The thing that was the strangest for me to discover was that if you are in a spinning space station there’s a funny experiment you can do. One is to jump down from a raised platform like a table or bunk bed. The other is just to jump straight up from the ground. In artificial gravity, when you jump down from something, you will land slightly retrograde of the spot you were right above (retrograde is opposite the direction of the spin). But if you jump from the ground straight up, you will land slightly prograde (in the same direction as the spin) of the spot you jumped from. It’s fun to think about, but sometimes it hurts my brain.
Myles Christensen loves to write exciting adventures because he loves to read exciting adventures. The hopeless romantic in him will usually sprinkle a teensy bit of romance into his stories. He listens to mood-appropriate music while writing, but he can’t hear words and write words at the same time, so the songs have to be instrumental only.
His mild-mannered alter ego is a product development engineer, university professor, and game inventor. He lives in Utah with his wife and children.
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