Michael Gabriel Gurick III spends all his time in a subterranean workshop 80 feet under his house. It’s a place that resembles the Batcave, Dexter’s laboratory, and Walter Bishop’s workshop. There’s only one problem, however. What’s the point of having a secret, subbasement lab if your mother knows about it? For goodness sakes, where does a teenage kid have to go to get a little privacy?
But his mother’s nosey nature is the least of young Michael’s problems. Ever since his father was “killed in a car crash” six months ago, he’s been living at the nexus of an upside down world. His best friend can crush stone and bend steal, his blind girlfriend can see better than he can, superheroes keep popping into his underground lair unannounced, and his dad has been replaced by a shape-shifting government agent.
Dispensing Justice takes place in 1984, nearly 40 years after a supernova wavefront blasted Earth’s atmosphere. Alien intervention helped diffuse the cosmic disaster, but nothing could prevent 10 percent of the planet’s population from perishing in a storm of “radiation and unsterilized neutrinos.”
The unexpected appearance of alien benefactors changed our world in so many ways. Not only did their goodwill wipe out numerous diseases and put cancer on the endangered list, but they also inadvertently created the first Nova Genesis generation, aka the first generation of superheroes.
Michael’s father, the Dispenser, was a member of the first superhero generation. And Michael is positive that his father didn’t die in an auto accident. That’s why he’s spending all his time down in his rabbit hole of solitude. He’s making plans to assume his father’s secret identity, hunt down the killer, and dispense a little justice.
The author successfully captures the voice of mid-century adventure stories for kids. Taking a page from Robert Heinlein’s classic juvenile novels, Dispensing Justice is a story set in a science fiction/superhero universe and features a clique of smart and likeable teenagers grappling with complex (adult) issues. Compared to today’s current crop of sensationalist YA novels, it may seem a tad quaint. But that’s a good thing. Anyone who grew up reading Have Space Suit—Will Travel or Starman Jones will get a kick out of this book.
[Dispensing Justice / By Fritz Freiheit / First Printing: December 2011 / ISBN: 9780984795536]