The Clone Catastrophe: Emperor of the Universe (Emperor of the Universe, 2)

The Clone Catastrophe: Emperor of the Universe (Emperor of the Universe, 2)
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Release Date
April 20, 2021
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“What do you get when you combine a 7th grader, a gerbil, a package of ground beef, and an alien space ship on a chase across the universe? David Lubar’s latest masterpiece, of course!”―Dan Gutman, bestselling author of the My Weird School series on Emperor of the Universe

In The Clone Catastrophe, Nicholas, Jeef, and Henrietta the gerbil are back in another laugh-out-loud intergalactic adventure in this rollicking sequel to Emperor of the Universe.

Nicholas V. Landrew's life as emperor of the universe is off to a terrible start! He's been cloned for some nefarious purpose, old enemies are after him, and his parents want him to take out the garbage! Will Nicholas even survive his first year?

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The Answer to the MEANING OF LIFE
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It's hard to return to regular life after being named Emperor of the Universe, especially when your parents want you to take out the trash. Nick Landrew is back, arguing with his parents about chores. Later, they come to ask him what's been wrong lately, and when he tells them the truth, they don't believe him. They don't even believe that Henrietta the gerbil can talk; they are just pleased that Nick has been taking up ventriloquism and magic. They encourage this, since they are in the entertainment field themselves. Nick does get to travel with Clave (whom he summons with an app) every evening on The Nick of Space, and is expected to meet with various peoples in the universe to try to solve their problems. Of course, he has problems of his own, snice Morglob the talent agent wants revenge, and a group called the Unilluminated also want to kill him. Back on Earth, he finds it hard to talk to Stella at school. They do go out on a date, and the more he talks to her, the easier it becomes to communicate, but when Nick's house is attacked when Stella is visiting, Clave rescues them. This means telling Stella the truth, but also fulfilling her wish to see the rings of Saturn. The Carborzi have bought one of Nick's socks that Clave has auctioned off to raise funds, and used his DNA to create an army of clones. This creates a lot of chaos, and makes it harder for Nick to implement his goal as emperor. While he's still struggling to come up with the meaning of life, he knows he wants to try to stop all wars, because "A bit of violence can ruin a whole lot of beauty". When Stella reveals secrets about herself, will this help or hurt Nick's reign as Emperor of the Universe?

Good Points

This second installment is slightly less goofy than the first, although there are certainly enough humorous occurrences to delight readers who enjoy them. Jeef's interstitial ruminations (see what I did there?) add some backstory as well as philosophy. Since gatekeepers of middle grade literature LOVE books with life lessons, it's truly inspired that Lubar has Nick questioning his place in the universe, and gives another nod to the inspiration behind this series, Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. This book, however, gives a very direct answer to the meaning of life, and it's one that's hard to argue with. "We are meant to use our gifts in good ways, and to help others use theirs." That's certainly the answer that I would have given, although perhaps not as eloquently.

I did miss the illustrations from the first book. There are very few in this one.

Including Stella as not only a romantic interest but as a possible assassin is inspired. While a vast number of seventh grade boys are interested in girls, I'm sure that there are moments when they believe that girls will be their undoing. Will it be by poisoning their root beer before deciding NOT to kill them? Probably not, but the emotional effects are pretty much the same.

Castle's Popular Clone and Korman's Masterminds trilogy play with the idea of cloning in similar ways, but Nick's journey is right at home with Stu Truly's pursuit of Becca in Richard's more realistic exploration of tween romance. The Clone Catastrophe brilliantly balances all the enormous problems of being the master of the universe with the even more crushing ones like talking to girls and, yes, taking out the trash. Of course, if you are the emperor of the universe, it's good to zap the DNA out of your trash so that the Craborzi don't try to clone you AGAIN.
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