Kings of the World is Matt Pike’s first novel, though it’s the second book I have read of his (see my review of Apocalypse: Diary of a Sruvivor, where I decided I must read every book he ever writes).
Kings of the World is about four teenage boys—Cooper, The Ginge, Knuckles, and Pete—who are chosen to represent Earth on the Galactic Council, a committee comprising of members from all civilized worlds throughout the universe. Every so often, the council meets on Galactica, where the council originated. Sessions can last for weeks or for decades, during which time all members get to know each other and vote on important decisions that affect their planets. They also party hard.
Although the boys start off as enemies, they learn to appreciate each other’s strengths and come to form a team. Life on Galactica is hard initially, between getting used to new customs, learning how to make Earth look good to other planets, and of course, dealing with the occasional attacks on the councilors. Earth’s initiation into the Galactic Council coincides with 37 other new intake species—a record high. The attacks seem more than coincidental, and Cooper decides he will spend his time trying to figure out who is behind them.
But life is not always so serious. The boys quickly learn how to use the Universal Translator, which, in addition to translating universal languages, can be used to create anything the boys desire: food, entertainment, and more. With their new tool they are able to build their own realistic war games and become popular among the other new intake groups.
Like in Apocalypse, Matt incorporates a lot of gaming into the story, though it’s on a completely different level in Kings of the World. Though I’m not a big gamer, it’s entertaining to read about all the innovations and ways to take gaming to the next level in a world where there are no boundaries.
Matt also deftly inserts humor in the strange circumstances the boys often find themselves in. Cooper, The Ginge, Knuckles, and Pete all have traits that are very relatable. They each have distinct personalities, and though they struggle at times, they each come into their own by the end of the story. They do grow up and learn to become leaders, but at the same time they manage to retain their youth.
The story ends with an epic battle, one that is both political and physical. They antagonists of the book have shades of grey, and Matt reveals the complexities and moral dilemmas of alien politics, which though they claim to be superior and wiser, closely resemble politics on Earth.
Matt has created a fascinating world full of characters with different motivations and personalities. The very end of Kings of the World is a nice setup for a sequel, which Matt has promised in his Q & A session in the back of the book will come out soon. So now, I’ll be eagerly awaiting the sequel’s release.