Monday, February 12, 2007

Science "Faction:" Mysteries of the Galaxy Solved?

In the mailbox this week was a series book which tries a new wrinkle (in time, sometimes) on an beloved old genre--"gadget" and "bug-eyed monster (BEM)" science fiction. It is Mindshifters, the second book in the Cogno: The Legends series. This series bills itself as "science faction," that is, sci-fi novels which elucidate the scientific facts and principles featured in the plots.

Mindshifters features the Icari, a special forces cadre of the governing Kimmeroi with the mission of overcoming Code Dark, a sinister threat to the universe. In this novel, one-eyed, tentacled, telepathic Cogno leads a crew which might have been recruited from the bar scene in Star Wars. Each member represents the qualities of a different species of space life: Volo, the teenage spaceship pilot with all the right stuff, Chronica, the time traveler, Undula, the space serpent who can move beyond the speed of light, Phonica, who speaks 544 space languages, Scribo, the keeper of all data, and so on. In Mindshifters their mission is to rescue Cogno's father Nonus from a black hole into which he sacrificed himself to prevent his knowledge of mind transfer from falling into the hands of the Shifters, a species capable of implanting false memories and controlling others' minds at will.

The reader who likes a lot of cool space gadgets and high tech weaponry will enjoy the fast-paced action and alternate life forms in Mindshifters. For the more factually-minded reader, there are text boxes (called "Cognotes) within most chapters which explain the known science behind the twists and turns of the plot, a device which probably encourages the reader to understand and remember the "science facts" as he goes. A glossary at the end of the novel explains the scientific technology and theory presented in the story and assigns each to the categories of FACT, FUTURE, or outright FICTION. Stuart Montaldo and his team of writers do a admirable job of explaining complicated principles for ages 10 and up. As Bill Nye, the Science Guy, says in his introduction, "[It's] a journey you'll enjoy with science you can keep!"

Cogno: The Legends series is a product extension of the award-winning Cogno: The Alien Adventure Game and
Codebreaker, two educational games which feature the same other worldly cast of characters featured in the Cogno "faction" series.

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