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Welcome to Zane’s life totally wired. An anklet goes into his skin to track his whole life, from his school schedule to his blood pressure and glucose levels to even when his next anticipated trip to the bathroom should be. All of his information feeds into the computers in his room and the television screens on his walls. His parents --- who he rarely sees in person --- even communicate with him through technology. But everything changes when Zane’s dad leaves him a new gizmo called “The Gizzard,” which is supposed to allow him to connect with technology while he’s outside his room. But it also has another strange perk. “The Gizzard” lets him communicate with animals.

It turns out that Zane’s dog, Hugo, “a hodgepodge of a terrier,” has a lot on his mind. His vet, Dr. Gristle, a celebrity for the recent development of animal chips, is not all he’s cracked up to be. Hugo calls Dr. Gristle “Doctor Fathead Vet Jerk” and warns Zane that the vet’s plan is to “turn us all into robots…First, he worked out the chip that lets you boss us in and out of the house when you want. Now he’s developed the one that lets you read our hearts and minds. We’ve gone from being pets to being toys.”

Hugo insists that the vet’s intentions are wrong and rotten and they need to do something, but Zane isn’t sure he can help. Then Hugo brings Zane to a place deep in the woods --- where nobody goes anymore, where there’s no technology --- called the WildArea, or Cyberia. There are animals of all types. Zane, who can’t believe his eyes, thinks, “I have never seen this kind of variety in one place, and there is a good reason for that --- they don’t belong in one place. Squirrels and pigeons and blue jays --- sure, they’re native. But what explains the sudden wild world where a marmoset hangs out in a tree two miles from my house? And a falcon? A chinchilla? And what’s with the pony?”

The animals, in their eclectic assortment, have one thing in common. They are all talking, pleading and screaming, and some are squawking to Zane, begging him for help. They need to make the evil Dr. Gristle stop microchipping animals. Their lives, and the lives of all animals, are depending on him. How can Zane say no?

Zane immediately visits Dr. Gristle’s office and sees some more mysterious things. But when the vet realizes Zane has some connection with the animals that he himself does not have, he gets very, very angry. Does Zane have what it takes to save the animal kingdom?

CYBERIA, by acclaimed author Chris Lynch, takes readers on an adventure through a futuristic digital world where technology and nature are up against each other. Zane is a likable character whose well-wired world is, in reality, quite lonely. His plight of saving the animals is one that young people will enjoy. Plus, his dog Hugo is humorous and truly lives up to the name “boy’s best friend.”

Reviewed by Kristi Olson on September 1, 2008

by Chris Lynch

  • Publication Date: October 1, 2010
  • Genres: Science Fiction
  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 0545027969
  • ISBN-13: 9780545027960