Annie's Uncle Marco goes on one of his mysterious trips, leaving her in charge of two sealed boxes on one condition: she must not open either one while he is away. But she is tempted...and soon she has unleashed the unspeakable. The creatures inside the box are crab-like and grotesque. And they possess a power Annie could never have imagined: the power to transmute time. "Sleator is the master of the creepy-crawly, and his inventiveness is at full power here." --The Horn Book
Like Pandora, 15-year-old orphan Annie has been given a box she is forbidden to open, opens it nonetheless and unleashes something horrible. But Sleator adds a twist: Annie has a second box. Moreover the telepathic crab-like beasts that came out of the first box may appear to be the evils of the world but turn out to be the protagonist's only hope for self-actualization. As in The Beasties, Sleator creates a community of strangely empathic monsters and a teenager who, when pressed into their service, discovers the mission isn't noxious but fulfilling. The creepy-crawlies worship a god/plant/clock that lives in the second box. They build a subterranean palace, order Annie about and enact enigmatic rites, saying things like: "The Lord will be very happy about the swing ritual, and the two more who are sacrificed to the Lord's goodness" (in reference to two creatures who are swung in a suspended boat and fall to their deaths). Unfortunately, a stereotypical crew of evil land developers and a less than compelling wizard figure (Annie's nearly absentee Uncle Marco) keep the tale on a superficial level. And readers may be disappointed in the ending, which sends Annie off on a cliffhanger of an adventure and never explains the process between creatures and clock, or Uncle Marco's role in it. Perhaps Sleator has a sequel in store; in the meantime, this is his signature high-style ick and suspense, but without sufficient payoff. Ages 10-up. (May)
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July 31, 2000
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