Deathstrike (Ultraball #2)

Deathstrike (Ultraball #2)
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Release Date
January 14, 2020
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Strike and the Miners are hungrier than ever for a championship after losing yet another Ultrabowl. When they suffer a shocking defeat in their season opener, Strike knows that something is off with his game, but the secret hampering his play is too large to reveal.

If he can’t perform at the highest level, what chances do the Miners have against the unstoppable Neutrons?

Worse yet, his powerful enemy, Raiden Zuna, knows Strike is hiding something. Zuna offers to help, and Strike is tempted—but the information Zuna wants in return threatens Strike’s friend Boom, as well as the growing Dark Side resistance. When rumors surface about Zuna’s mysterious grand plan, code-named Operation Deathstrike, Strike’s choice could have consequences he never anticipated.

Even as the Ultraball games ratchet up in intensity, with teams using explosive new tactics to reach the Ultrabowl, Strike has bigger decisions to make if he wants to keep his teammates—and the moon—safe.

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1 review
More Sports in Space
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After narrowly avoiding disaster in Ultraball, the Miners (coached by Strike) are back for a new season. When the team loses to the low ranked Molemen, they know that they have to take a hard look at their roster in order to have a decent season. Strike is also dealing with a secret-- he is quickly outgrowing his Ultrabot suit, which will mean the end of his career. To complicate matters, Striker finds out from a group of Dark Siders that Book is still alive, and he starts to get coded messages from her. The most pressing threat is Raiden Zuna. He's not only backing the Neutrons, who are on track for their fifth championship win, but he's bought up most of the media so they only report stories he approves. He's still trying to take over the Moon, but he takes time to reach out to Strike. He knows Strike's secret, and claims he can help him to modify his suit so he can continue playing, just like one of his players. WIth Zuna threatening the safety of all of the communities on the Moon, the competition to reach the Ultrabowl ramps up, with players making more and more violent choices in order to win. When Strike finds out how Zuna REALLY helped his player with the Ultrabot suit, he realizes that there is nothing that can extend his playing time, and he has to look out for the safety of Boom, his players, and the Moon, not matter how much this runs him afoul of Zuna.
Good Points
For sports players who also like science fiction, this is a perfect amalgamation. Ultraball is similar to football, if football involved flying, underground passages, explosions, and suits that give the players super power. There are lots of games described in exquisite detail, and I've noticed on most of the reviews of the first book that this is what the teachers and librarians don't like about the story. These descriptions are, of course, exactly what middle school sports fans absolutely want in a book!

Zuna is an interesting super villain-- he has so much money and power that he seems unstoppable, but has certain weaknesses. I loved that Strike had no intention of trusting him, but was sucked in by his desire to continue with his sport. The fact that the players will take horrific chances to stay in the Ultrabot suits has direct parallels to football players continuing to suit up despite the threat of concussions and traumatic brain injury.

The best part about this is, of course, the Miners and the variety of characters on the team. My own favorite was Torch's sister,who shows up wanting to help the team in any capacity, and who ends up being a formidable player in her own right, earning the nickname "Nitro". It made me very happy that the Ultraball players were about equally male and female, and there wasn't much discussion that this was anything unusal. Is it going to take the destruction of the entire Earth, a Moon colony, and robotic suits before we get gender parity in sports?

Ultraball is such an unusual mix of elements that it's hard to find books like it. Readers who go back and forth between Tim Green and Mike Lupica and then Jason Fry, Joshua Levy, and D.J. MacHale will wish that they were able to take their own game into space.
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