S F Said

Lucky thinks he's an ordinary Human boy. But one night, he dreams that the stars are singing - and wakes to find an uncontrollable power rising inside him. Now he's on the run, racing through space, searching for answers. In a galaxy at war, where Humans and Aliens are deadly enemies, the only people who can help him are an Alien starship crew - and an Alien warrior girl, with neon needles in her hair. Together, they must find a way to save the galaxy. For Lucky is not the only one in danger. His destiny and the fate of the universe are connected in the most explosive way...
"An action-packed adventure that will appeal to both boys and girls." (Linda Buckley-Archer, The Guardian)

"This is fabulous, high-octane stuff, with an uplifting ending, stunningly illustrated by the brilliant Dave McKean." Sally Morris, Daily Mail
Alex, from University College School London

Phoenix by SF Said is a sci-fi or adventure book, and the third children’s novel written by this author. It begins in the distant future, where Earth is no longer inhabited; the human race is dispersed far across galaxies. But they are far from alone – the Axxa race (also derived from Earth’s inhabitants), whom the humans despise, particularly for their strange worship of the stars. A raging war between them has split the universe in half.

Lucky is a young boy living on a human planet. He is as normal as anyone until his mother notices tiny remnants of his recently-incinerated bed sheets. But he is given no time to discover this strange power further; the next minute, they are preparing to flee, and his life as an ordinary schoolboy is overturned permanently by the consequences of the following events. Soon he finds himself desperately clambering into the ship belonging to the enemy, who he accompanies on a voyage through the galaxies in quest of finding his long-lost father.

This book provides an intriguing take on the future, particularly as both the opposing races originated from Earth and turn out to be not as different from each other as it might appear initially. It combines action and adventure, with a futuristic, sci-fi twist.

SF Said allows us to witness the whole of Lucky’s manic thought process along the way, as he attempts to grasp the bigger picture that is revealed so abruptly, when he leaves his home for the first time. This is achieved well, despite the third-person format. The book is gripping to read as one attempts to uncover the same secrets that Lucky is searching for.

When the universe is rather unexpectedly thrown into peril by an unknown evil called the ‘wolf’ (which even ‘startalkers’, a type of person able to hear the call of an assigned star, cannot understand), Lucky’s importance becomes the key to its survival. But can he do it? The problem dawns on the reader in a way that achieves the effect of creating a parallel between our reaction and the reaction of the protagonist, and the same shock is conveyed to the reader by the immensity of this matter.

I found this book excellent, it was definitely worth reading, and offers a fresh perspective of a futuristic setting in comparison to other sci-fi novels, introducing a new kind of mythology which is placed alongside the far more advanced science and technology displayed in this fiction. Instead of simply creating aliens, it cleverly weaves this into our future, so that the two opposing races are simply the result of thousands of years of different adaptation, though from a common origin. The ending is far from predictable, and although quite unexpected, is far more interesting than the rather clichéd act in which a hero saves the day without sacrifice of some sort.

Ayah, from Wix Primary School

Lucky, a curious orphan boy with an incredibly adventurous spirit living on Planet Phoenix, is all set to go out on a thrilling and memorable experience in space. He thinks he is an ordinary living boy with little self-confidence; however, he’s more than that. He soon discovers an uncontrollable power bursting inside of him.

He is heading on a journey filled with both excitement and hazard, where humans and strange aliens are both deadly enemies. He is searching for solutions to end this long-lasting conflict, helped by an unusual alien warrior girl. By working together, these two people must, even though they are from different species, find a way to help save the galaxy. Together, they can save the whole universe from danger! Will they succeed in this, or will the whole galaxy face a catastrophic war… forever?

I absolutely adore this fascinating novel because it is filled with both excitement and adventure all in one book. I’m not particularly interested in space and astronomy and generally non-fiction subjects. However, this book intrigued me to start reading about the atmosphere and solar system. My favourite character from this imaginative tale is the warrior girl Bixa: she is a wonderful reliable friend, always there to help, even though she IS bossy at times! 

The lesson I learnt from Phoenix is that you should be confident and positive: always believe in yourself because in the end you can be successful if you persevere. I truly recommend this book for any reader looking for adventure and inspiration. Hopefully there will be a forthcoming book about Lucky and the new peaceful life between humans and aliens that he worked so hard for!

Ayah is from Wix Primary
Behdad, from East Barnet School

To be very frank and honest I never thought Phoenix would be the beauty of a book it is. Phoenix is a about a boy named Lucky. One night Lucky wakes up and realises he has burnt his duvet somehow; he tries to cover it up but it is too late - his mother discovers what is going on.  I loved this book from start to end including the awe-inspiring drawings. She tells Lucky they must leave Phoenix but why? What do these powers Lucky has do? 

I’d say Phoenix has DEFINITELY raised the bar for the WEREAD books this year. Phoenix is a well-thought-through book that I would recommend to both girls and boys because of its intriguing, addictive and unpredictable storyline. In addition, I must say I am normally VERY picky with Sci-Fi books but Phoenix has proven to show the more stimulating side. Also, if there’s one vital thing I learnt from this book it is probably to: read more unknown books by unknown authors! I admire Mr. Said and Mr. McKean for this unbeatable marvellous masterpiece they have composed. My Unputdownability for Phoenix is... a 9!

Cassius, from Wren Academy Barnet

Phoenix is a good example of where sci-fi meets mystery and adventure. It is a very exciting book that when you get into it you can't stop reading. It is also a beautiful book as Dave McKean has made a mixture of abstract and realistic pictures in the book which is unexpected of a chapter book but gives a magical and mystic addition and a prophesy is written on each illustrated page that starts a new chapter.

Meet Lucky, a human from Phoenix who finds himself with his Mother in the galaxy where the planets, inhabited by both Axxa (a type of alien) and Humans, are at war. Lucky on his travels meets a few Axxa aliens on board an alien spaceship he luckily catches a ride on. Introducing Bixa, a feisty female alien who has needles on her head which express her emotions through colour;  Mystica ,an old female alien who is a star-talker so she can communicate with her linked star; Frollix, a male Axxa who is brave and strong and who claims not to be afraid of anything; and Captain Nox, a male who is attached to his spaceship and won't let anyone drive it.

Soon it is known that there is a wolf eating all the stars and it's up to the team to stop it and save the world from destruction while battling their way through boarder control guarded by the heartless shadow guards, which is difficult for Lucky in disguise. Lucky discovers his hidden powers and alien technology such as vidscreens and astrolabes, meanwhile uncovering more about who his Father really is.

The book is well written with a good balance of complex and simple vocabulary although I would have preferred if the book was written in 1st person to force empathy upon the reader. I think anybody who read this book would want to read more of Said's Books. All in all I love the book and would recommend it to any person of my age group. 

James, from Jewish Community Secondary School

If you want to read an exciting, scientifically accurate book, don’t choose Phoenix: the start hits you so hard that, by the time you’ve recovered, you have to start all over again. In many ways, it is like a dull version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s writing. For a start, the irritating refrain “we are in dark times” is so over-used that, for a time, I stopped reading this book. Secondly, the book has obviously either been edited badly or has its own language as there are several grammatical errors such as saying “it’s” instead of “its”. This book has also undermined the rule that having repetitive phrases strengthens the story and keeps the words in your mind. It doesn’t. There are entire events that happen over and over again which just make the book even more annoying. The events themselves are boring and slow-to-happen and, above all, only weakly linked to the rest of the tale. There are hundreds of other reasons why this book should never have been selected for the WeRead Book Award. These include, for instance, the huge amount of times the ‘humans v aliens, ends in peace’ genre has been used before. Other than the wonderful illustrations, this book is a complete waste of time.

Lily, from East Barnet School

Phoenix is set in a future where humans have expanded outwards from Earth to occupy other planets. Lucky lives an ordinary life on his planet in one of the furthest systems in the galaxy. One night however he wakes to find a hole burnt in his duvet by himself. He is whisked away by his mother and with soldiers on his trail teams up with an alien starship crew. Aliens are despised by humans and as Lucky travels through the galaxy searching for answers to his past and the cause of the War he finds that maybe aliens have been wrongly judged.

I eagerly awaited S.F.Said’s follow-up to Varjak Paw and despite the wait I wasn’t disappointed. I was catapulted into an amazing, painstakingly detailed world. The characters were intriguing and well developed and the storyline was fascinating and twisting. Dave McKean’s illustrations brought the story to life. Their complex nature linked with the idea of space, deep and mysterious.

I would definitely recommend Phoenix to all teenagers as it is a brilliant book. S.F.Said is a talented writer and his ideas are amazing and inspiring. 

Mohamed, from East Barnet School
When I started reading the book, I thought it would turn out to be a boring scientific book but I was wrong. It had the element of surprise, and not knowing what was going to happen next was a bonus to this rewarding book and kept you reading till your eyes drop. The book was full of surprises, like the catchy illustrations and the graphic images that caught the eye of any book lover. Lucky was a very unusual character, he never gave up and was determined to find what he desired; on the other hand mum wasn’t determined but was a loving and courageous character for saving a life. The summary of this book I would say is a determined boy searching for answers to his life and never will give up gliding through space with no loved person - a thing no one could experience - as well as saving the universe. This is a book you can’t miss: from sci-fi to romance gliding to adventure and sadness, this is 100 books in one. This is the best book I have ever read; will it be yours?
Stuti, from The Henrietta Barnett School London

Phoenix is a book ideally written for children and teenagers. There are some very interesting illustrations or images in between the chapters. This is a science-fiction novel about a boy called Lucky and the discovery of his secret powers. It’s a story about him searching for his father throughout the galaxy after his mother passes away. There are a lot of wonderful characters in the book. The book also portrays that humans are linked to the stars along with other exciting adventures of space battles and exploding stars. I specifically enjoyed the ending of the book the most. 

My Rating: 5/5

Tal, from Jewish Community Secondary School

I really enjoyed Phoenix and I thought it was great. I didn't know too much about it until it dropped through my letterbox, but I knew that as soon as it did I would have to read it, especially after seeing the brilliant trailer and reading the synopsis, which really intrigued me.

I don’t often read space books, so I was both excited and apprehensive to read it. I was excited because it was something new, something that I’d never really experienced before, and I was looking forward to it. I was apprehensive because there's a reason I don’t read too many space books – because the few I have read have been a bit hit and miss (mostly miss, to be honest!). But, I’m happy to say that Phoenix is definitely a hit for me. 

The world created in Phoenix is so wonderfully imaginative, and so brilliantly written, I got lost in the stars within only a few minutes of reading. I loved the concept of the singing stars being the centre of everything, and the universe was just such a pleasure to read about (even the bad bits like the Shadow Guards!). I especially loved any scene where Lucky was inside the astrolabe and flying through the sky. 

The characters were fantastic. I especially loved the Axxa, and I really liked how they were so similar physically to humans, yet their lifestyle and culture is so hugely different. I felt sorry for them while they were attacked and hated by humans, and I was really glad that Lucky could overcome his ingrained hatred of them and that they could actually work together in the end and be happy doing so. 

At first, I wasn't sure about the ending and didn't like it at all. I know that sounds harsh, but I was expecting (or maybe I was just really hoping for) something different. I really tried reflecting on the rest of the book and trying to justify the ending, but simply couldn’t. I personally think that the whole ending partially ruined the book.

Yumnar, from Wren Academy Barnet

I can't even begin to describe this book. A masterpiece is what I would call it. Beautiful, exhilarating and heart-breaking. I found the technique of writing was so simple and elegant but the story it crafted is beyond words. Though the story, at first, seemed like it was going to be a typical story where a young boy has a power he doesn't want and has to save the world and suffer hardships, it was so much more than that. I can safely say however, TOO MANY CHARACTERS DIED. It seemed to me that I was sobbing uncontrollably on every other page. Every time I thought that, "The pain is over. They're dead and gone", another character went ahead and died and what's worse is that they were all the characters that I was developing attachments too. The writer was cruel in that manner and twisted my heart in all sorts of ways until I felt like it was in tatters. I absolutely loved the concept of the story though and the descriptions of the stars! 

Every aspect of the story was beautifully shaped and the relationships between the characters were so strong! I couldn't have been happier with the end and I was crying tears of happiness which was nice for a change. I found that it was a heart-wrenching, deep and imaginative book, and there are so many good lessons to be learnt from it; and morally, it was so inspiring and enriching. I think it can relate directly to our times since it surrounds themes about war, courage, peace, lies and perseverance and since wars are happening currently at this time, the book strengthens what people perceive to be good or evil, and how war is never the answer, and how, even when things look bleak in people's lives and everything feels pointless, there are still always things that matter and the writer portrayed all these things in the most creative and amazing way.