Zita, a girl who was thrown through space by an artifact that fell to Earth, saved the planet Scriptorius from the asteroid that was to destroy it — and that’s where her troubles really began. With the artifact destroyed, she has no choice but to travel through the stars, gradually making her way back to Earth with the help of the enigmatic Piper and the other friends she made on Scriptorius. Zita’s fame has preceded her, though, and every time the crew lands on a planet, Zita is mobbed. When she comes across a robot that, strangely enough, looks exactly like her, she takes the opportunity to swap places and bolt for a few moments of freedom. But after the crew takes off without her, Zita must accept help from Madrigal, a free-spirited woman from Piper’s past. Zita has to find Piper and the ship before her robot double leads them all into grave danger.
A lot is going on in the second volume of the adventures of Zita the Spacegirl, but Hatke clearly knows where his chaotic plot is headed and his firm grasp of the reins keeps readers from becoming overwhelmed. Those who want action will find it aplenty here. There are stolen spaceships and police chases, daring escapes and dramatic pauses, attacking aliens and empathic spaceships, circus acts and giant cats (a fitting character addition, considering Zita’s aptronymic and oversized friend Mouse), and more. Readers may be a little sad that there aren’t more moments with Zita’s alien and robot friends from book one, but the chance to look into Zita’s mind will mollify them. She’s still the same brave girl, but her frustration at her sudden fame is believable. Hatke manages to speak to his young readers about the dangers of fame without preaching, which requires a light touch that not all creators possess.
But beyond the skilled writing, what will attract readers to this series is Hatke’s magnificent art. He deftly blends science fiction and fantasy into something unique. His worlds are full of robots, aliens, spaceships, and all of the electronic, mechanical, and industrial detritus of life in advanced civilizations. There is an inherent organic quality to the settings, the characters, and even the mechanical creations, which breathes not only life into these pages, but subtle hints of magic as well. Bits which, in the hands of a lesser creator, would be played for cheesy laughs – such as the Star Hearts, giant pink hearts with evil, beady green eyes and gaping maws filled with teeth – become, in Hatke’s hands, the stuff of childhood amazement and wonder. Hatke knows and understands that all truly good children’s tales should have some danger, some excitement, some silliness, some sadness, and some love. Zita’s second adventure will thrill readers of her first one, will likely garner new fans, and will leave all of them on the edges of their seats, waiting for volume three.