"In the year 2098," novelist Blair Palmerlee writes, "everything and everyone in the city of Chico seemed to be a well-adjusted part of the well-oiled machine, which began life each day. This, however, was not the case for a young boy named Malcolm Thomas. For Malcolm the day would begin the same way it would end: Not soon enough." This particular day Malcolm is not quite late to his favorite high school class, quantum mechanics, taught by Professor Manuel Clarick. Good thing, too. This day Clarick shows off his experiment, and Malcolm has to save the universe.
In "The Universe of Malcolm: The Biggest, Small Problem" ($12 in paperback from CreateSpace) Palmerlee has crafted a wildly inventive sci-fi tale for 'tweens and young adults about a nerdy kid who discovers the meaning of courage. Palmerlee, a recent guest at Lyon Books in Chico, grew up on a farm near Bangor, attended Chico High School (the name of Malcolm's school is never mentioned), and is now studying psychology. His plot keeps pages turning as space battles alternate with deadpan humor.
That fateful morning Malcolm had zapped his hand with his Neutron Razor, and now his hand is beginning to disappear. As his science teacher explains, "You see, the razor works by breaking the electron barrier on the atoms in hair, absorbing the remaining neutralized particles, and recycling their energy for smaller tasks like nostril grooming." But something has gone wrong. Buried in Malcolm's disappearing hand are galaxies and nebula but--surprise!--"a huge war-like spaceship, emerging from what looked like a strange green worm hole. 'Houston,' said Prof. Clarick, as he stared at the pictures. 'We have a problem.'"
Clarick's experiment is not something you or I can understand, but it enables Malcolm to descend into the universe of his own hand so he can put things right and, if everything goes according to plan, emerge before he went in. So in he goes.
There is war in space. The Order, headed by a long-eared Dorexian name Kail, is desperately trying to stop the evil Fults, who will stop at nothing to take the ancient power of Moltor and so rule the universe. Malcolm, who is the universe, must stop him.
No wonder he misses Chico.