One Giant Leap
by Ben Gartner
GENRE: middle grade hard science fiction action adventure
“I’m pretty sure I’m about to die in space. And I just turned twelve and a half.”
Blast off with the four winners of the StellarKid Project on a trip to the International Space Station and then to the Gateway outpost orbiting the Moon! It’s a dream come true until space junk collides with the ISS, turning their epic trip into a nightmare of survival. Alone aboard the Aether starship, the kids have to work as a team to save the adults before the ISS is destroyed. Suit up, cadet, and launch into adventure with One Giant Leap!
I’m pretty sure I’m about to die in space. And I just turned twelve and a half.
The frayed end of my tether whips around like a lasso as I flip front over back and sideways.
I see the long blue smear of Earth hurtling past. The silver hull of my ship, the Aether, whizzes by in a blur before I gasp at the once-glorious International Space Station. Now, just wreckage. The ISS spits pieces that twinkle in the sunlight. Sparks sizzle and blink against the black backdrop of the endless universe.
My spin continues until all I can see is the void of deep space, punctured by bright pinpricks of gaseous stars millions of light-years away.
The horizon of Earth again, with its clouds and land and water. Home.
The shiny tube of my ship, the Aether. It’s. So. Close. And yet, it can’t save me.
The ISS, Earth, the Aether, and here we go again on this terrible merry-go-round— You get the picture. It’s not good. I close my eyes.
I’m tumbling, and I think I’m squirting oxygen from my life-support backpack, which isn’t helping my somersaults. My suit is losing pressure. At least that’s what I guess is causing the fuzz in my brain. It’s hard to think. My vision is narrowing, dimming, like I’m about to wink away.
And the thing that I think is actually going to kill me? Water is leaking from somewhere inside my suit. Quickly it builds up and clings to my face like a wet rag. It’s a film over my eyes, it plugs my nose, and it slides into my mouth like alien slime whenever I try to cough. I shake my head violently to jiggle the liquid free, so hard that a nerve cries out in my neck. The head-whip kinda works, and I’m able to suck in a tiny breath. I choke down some water and, though the idea sounds ludicrous, I think, Am I going to drown . . . in space?
At this point, you might be asking, “What is a twelve-year-old doing in space?”
And I’d say, “That’s what you’re worried about? Not that I’m going to die?!”
It’s cool. Let me answer both questions. Why I’m one of the first kids in space, and how I ended up in this mess, adrift from my craft and about to become a permanent orbiting satellite. If I don’t plunge into the atmosphere and burn up first.
I’ll pause my death scene to explain a bit about how I got here. Because that’s a thing, right? Aren’t you curious how I got into this impossible quagmire? It’s a pretty amazing story. And 100 percent true.
The books I tend to enjoy reading are about kids being brave, or learning how to be, and I’d like to tell you this is one of those. But I’m not feeling it right now.
To be fair, in those books the kids are fighting fantasy monsters that disappear into dust when you stab them, or they’re in a simulation, or a video game, or you kind of know everything’s going to be all right, right? It’s fake danger.
This story is different. This one’s real. I honestly don’t know how I’m going to survive this. Adrift in space with my oxygen running low, all alone, spinning uncontrollably, a water leak in my suit threatening to drown me.
It all started innocently enough when a harmless package arrived in the mail . . .
The Story Behind the Villain in One Giant Leap
By Ben Gartner
“Villain” is a strong word, but like any well-developed character the “villain” should have layers and be nuanced and have motivations that make them human. Mr. Deuce in One Giant Leap is one such character. He may be a bit of a caricature, but the concerns behind his reluctance to invest in the space program—and especially in kids going to space!—is not totally unfounded. It can be a controversial topic: Why do we spend billions of dollars to grow spindly lettuce in space when we have so many problems on our own planet that those billions could go to help?
It is a complicated and sensitive topic and I don’t claim to have an easy answer. Sure, I could call out all the facts about the scientific and medical advances made by NASA and other entities in our reach for the stars. Or I could cite the historically significant role of the military in such endeavors.
But I am going to go with the emotional appeal, the one that speaks from the gut, the intangible “because it’s there” kind of explanation. What is it in our humanity that always makes us strive to see around the next corner, the top of the next mountain, or the surface of the next planet? Has it been our curiosity about the world, the universe, and our origins that drove us as a species to thrive and dominate the planet? Is it our unique sense of “self” that leads us to believe there are answers out there somewhere if only we keep looking? Or could it be something in our reptilian brains centered around survival and resource aggregation?
I think it’s probably a bit of all those things, but I believe that fundamentally humans have a power of imagination like no other creature we’ve [yet] discovered. What makes us human is our wonder. We strive to experience new things, gain new knowledge and insights, expand our own understanding of ourselves, our big human family, and our universe because . . . well, simply, we wonder. Our imagination is something we can’t escape. Thank goodness. We are an intelligent species forever unsatisfied with the status quo, always yearning to push farther, to learn more, to feed our insatiable brains with their lust for connecting the dots, releasing the dopamine we feel during those moments of “Eureka!”
Every kid knows this feeling because their brains are exploding with growth. We’ve all heard the phrase “young at heart,” but I hereby coin the phrase “young in mind,” meaning someone who is constantly curious, learning, and experiencing the world with unabashed wonderment. As the Editor’s Pick review from BookLife by Publishers Weekly put it: “One Giant Leap provides a vivid first-person account of space travel in all its terrifying glory precisely because it comes from someone who hasn’t yet learned how to filter his unabashed wonderment.”
So, why do I have the villain in One Giant Leap to portray the anti-space-exploration persona? Because yes, he is real, but he has, and will continue, to lose out to the more fundamental human sense of wonder.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Ben Gartner is the award-winning author of adventure books for middle graders. His stories take readers for a thrilling ride, maybe even teaching them something on the journey. Ben can be found living and writing near the mountains with his wife and two boys.
Available in paperback, hardback, and ebook everywhere books are sold. Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/One-Giant-Leap-Ben-Gartner/dp/B0BKMNW9CC/
Ben Gartner will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.