Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Cyber Crusader! The Junkyard Bot: Robots Rule! by C. J. Richards

George plugged his ears. "Jackbot!" he shouted.

The door opened, and three feet of scrap and spare parts rattled into the room. Jackbot's head tilted toward the bed and his green eyes flashed."
Yes, George," he said in his expressionless mechanical voice.

"Shut that thing up, would you?"

Jackbot scooped up the alarm clock in his pincer and put it on the floor. He raised a metal foot.


"That was--uh--a little extreme," George said. But it was no use blaming Jackbot. Robots just do what they are told.

George Gearing is a lonely orphan, living in a rundown suburb of Terabyte Heights with his grumpy junkyard manager uncle. But George is a born gearhead. Lacking the funds to buy his own deluxe model, he has built his own ramshackle robot, and secretly thinks of him as something like his best friend.

So when Jackbot is hit by a robocar owned by the top robotics expert of TinkerTech, Dr. Droid, George quickly accepts the offer of its passenger, Droid's daughter, Ann Droid, to help him rebuild Jackbot. Sneaking into the spare parts department of TinkerTech with Ann, George outdoes himself. Although the rusty and dented Jackbot looks the same on the outside, George is able to rewire him with AI, artificial intelligence, the Holy Grail of robotics, and he has powers no other robot, even Dr. Micron's best at Tinker Tech, possesses. Jackbot can think for himself.

But soon word of George's brilliant breakthrough reaches Dr. Micron, who quickly realizes that gaining the secrets of Jackbot's operating system will give him control over the robots of Terabyte Heights and eventually allow him every evil genius' goal--to rule the world. He kidnaps and downloads Jackbot, and when George and Ann try to rescue the robot, they find themselves captives of the nefarious Dr. Micron and ironically held as the prisoners of a traitorous Jackbot, with a timebomb ticking away inside him. Only George can save himself, Ann and Dr. Droid, and the rest of the world by his insight into Jackbot's most inner circuitry.

"Jackbot! I can see you're in there! And you're fighting to override Dr. Micron's program. This is no time to die!" said George.

"I'm a robot," said Jackbot. "My existence is merely a bunch of data streams. FIFTEEN SECONDS!"

"You're not just a robot, Jackbot. You're my friend."

"Sorry, George," said Jackbot. His eyes turned red again. "THREE, TWO.... "

George crouched on the floor and covered his head with his hands, waiting for the explosion. Nothing happened. He peered through his fingers.

Jackbot's eyes were green. "Just kidding!" he said. "You had me at a minute to go."

But with the evil would-be world despot Dr. Micron at large, George, Jackbot, Ann and her dad Dr. Droid, are the only cyber saviors able to take on Micron's legions of slave robots and defeat his evil plan. Readers will suspect that sequels are set to follow (the words Book One on the cover are a clue), and there is hope for mankind, as George learns when he returns to school and finds that they have reinstated their old employee as custodian after seriously bad experiences with his robotic replacement.

"It's great you got your job back, Mr. Cog." said George.

"Yeah," said the janitor. "On account of the robot was the tool of a homicidal maniac who wanted to take over the world... and I ain't."

C. J. Richard's just published The Junkyard Bot: Robots Rule, Book 1 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014) is a cyborg savant's dream. George can't wait to work as Dr. Droid's apprentice at TinkerTech, and with Dr. Micron still on the loose, the stage is set for another humorous robot romp through the easy-reading pages of Book Two. While the plot of The Junkyard Bot: Robots Rule, Book 1 is a recognizable chunk of fictional code, Richard's wit makes this robot tale one that is mostly character-driven, with the strong portrayal of George, Ann Droid, and the star of the show, Jackbot. With edgy cartoon illustrations, blueprint endpapers, page decorations by illustrator Gora Fujita, and page-turning heroic action that will entice even reluctant readers, it looks as if robot lovers are set for rip-roaring cyber sequels for a while.

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