Martin and his father live a solitary life on an island. His father never allows Martin off the island, and doesn’t allow him to have contact with any of the people who come to the island to spend the summer. They spend most of their time building a mysterious machine, but Martin doesn’t know why. All his father says is that it will bring them “Hope.”
When the machine is almost done, Martin’s father goes to the mainland for the last piece. On Martin’s eleventh birthday, though, his father’s boat comes up toward the island – empty except for a tree branch. Martin decides to wait until summer when the visitors will come back and figure out what to do then. Summer comes and goes, though, and nobody comes to the island. No boats come to fish either. Eventually Martin heads to the mainland where he finds deserted cities. Cars crashed into buildings, animals everywhere, total destruction. But not a single person, not even a body. He has a brief encounter with one kid, but that’s it. He heads inland hoping to find more people somewhere.
When he does find people, it’s a small village of kids that are all about his age. They ask where he was on “the day” – the day that everyone disappeared. He doesn’t know what day that was, since he always spent his days alone. None of the kids know what happened that day – just that they were spending time alone and then everyone was just gone. Some think they all went into space, others think they went underground, and others think they vanished into thin air. Through a strange sequence of events, Martin comes to believe that he is their savior – that he alone will be able to reunite the kids with their loved ones. First, though, he’ll have to convince the others to believe in him.
reviewed by Jessica