by Catherine Jinks

Houghton Mifflin, $8.99, Houghton Mifflin

Living Hell by Catherine Jinks is a “hard” science fiction novel for young teens but others will be satisfied if they happen to pick it up. The premise is that a multi-generational colony starship is suddenly transformed from a comfortable, nurturing place into a living hell for the men, women and children making the trip to a new world.

A mysterious wave of “universal life force” has passed over the starship; Plexus, which turns the metal and nano-technology ship into an organic entity complete with mechanisms and systems analogous to those of human bodies.  Fortunately, being mostly science types, the crew realizes what is going on before it is too late. Just before. The rest of the story involves the ingenious, or just plain desperate effort to understand and  cope with the changing structure and avoid the immune system equivalents that sees them as germs.

Catherine Jinks does a professional job, which includes leaving enough unfinished business to fill several sequels and I even wonder what these folks were doing on the Plexus in the first place. Disaster or just exploration. Prequel anyone?

Reviewed by Norman West