SkyWake Invasion by Jamie Russell

For Casey, the game she aces online has suddenly become real, and now everything is at stake.

Fifteen year-old Casey Henderson is obsessed with smash-hit game SkyWake. Little does she realise that it’s actually an alien training tool created by a mysterious extra-terrestrial species, so when the aliens swoop down on a national gaming tournament, it’s up to Casey and her teammates to do something about it.

It soon becomes clear that the aliens are abducting the best gamers to fight in a distant alien war across the galaxy, and they’ve taken her little brother. Casey’s gaming skills are best hope of stopping the aliens and rescuing her brother, but first she and her teammates must learn to work together in real life!

This is such a brilliant alien-blasting adventure!

We love Casey, a strong and determined female gaming main character who is a leader with everything it takes to unite her disparate team and kick some alien butt! We loved her determination and bravery in the face of the menacing ‘Red Eyes’! Casey’s poignant back story, particularly her relationship with her dad, is woven effortlessly into the action and adds real depth and strength to her character. Loved it!

The writing in SkyWake is awesome! It’s fast-paced and exciting, and had us racing through the chapters so we could find out what happened next. We loved the relationship between the gaming friends; their wit and wise-cracks firing as quickly as the laser blasters!

The cover art by Matt Griffin is absolutely popping too and brilliantly captures the energy, peril and other-worldness of this awesome adventure!

We cannot wait for SkyWake 2!!

Now we are joined by Jamie Russell to tell us about his some of his inspirations for the SkyWake series! I wonder if you have read or played any of these classic sci-fi books and games?!

The Books & Games That Inspired SkyWake: Invasion

When I was growing up, I was *obsessed* with two things: books and gaming (actually I was also obsessed with Pot Noodles, but I don’t think that’s relevant to this blogpost). I scoured the sci-fi section of my local bookshop with the same hunger that I scanned the shelves of Woolworths looking at the latest gaming cassette tapes.

[If you need me to explain why games used to come on cassette tapes or what a Woolworths is, you’ll have to wait until I have finished counting my grey hairs. It may take a while].

They say all writers stand on the shoulders of the authors who’ve gone before them. When I started writing SkyWake: Invasion – a story about a group of gamers who learn that their favourite game is actually an alien training tool – I realised I’d be standing on the shoulders of both books and videogames.

Sorry books and videogames, I know I’m heavy!

Anyway, here’s a few of the books and games that inspired me while I was writing SkyWake: Invasion

SPACE INVADERS (1978)

Space Invaders was one of the earliest arcade machines and the first to become a global sensation. Players were hooked by its simple game design (shoot aliens, don’t get shot) and tense soundtrack (which quickened like a heartbeat as the danger amped up). I first saw it when I was five years old, and it totally blew my mind. Space Invaders has a very special place in SkyWake: Invasion’s plot. It’s the retro game that Casey plays with her dad before he dies. By beating his high score, Casey discovers how to ‘go with the flow’ and believe in herself.

STARSTORMERS by Nicholas Fisk (1980)

I romped through Nicholas Fisk’s novels when I was about nine. He was a hugely prolific author (Grinny; A Rag, A Bone & A Hank of Hair; Robot Revolt), but it was the Starstormers series that really grabbed me. In the first book, a gang of schoolkids convert an asteroid into a spaceship and blast off inside it to find their parents across the galaxy. On the way they encounter a sinister alien race who take the form of a cloud of black dust. I especially loved the tight friendship between the heroes – something that inspired Casey’s relationship with her teammates in SkyWake: Invasion.

HALO: COMBAT EVOLVED (2001)

When Microsoft launched its Xbox console in 2001, it felt like the new millennium had properly arrived. What set Halo apart from other first person shooter games was its deep combat system. It was the first shooter where you were forced to use tactics, rather than just running and gunning. ‘Combat Evolved’ indeed. It also had the best weapons – pulse rifles, needlers, power swords – and a cast of aliens with distinctive personalities and fighting styles who were always ready to flank you. If SkyWake the videogame was real, it would look a lot like this… but with added telepathic Squids.  

TRIPODS: THE WHITE MOUNTAINS by John Christopher (1967)

I first discovered John Christopher’s Tripods series via the BBC TV adaptation in the 1980s. The sight of these huge alien vehicles walking across England was the stuff of nightmares and sent me scurrying behind the sofa quicker than an episode of Doctor Who. Growing up under the shadow of the Crystal Palace TV transmitter in South London, the local kids used to re-enact the tripod invasion on the streets with the tower as a stand in (annoyingly, it never moved). Tripods fuelled my obsession with invading aliens and it led straight into SkyWake: Invasion’s Red Eye attack.

OVERWATCH (2016)

You know how games keep track of how much time you’ve spent playing them? Well, I don’t dare look at the stats on Overwatch. It would probably be *weeks* of my life! Overwatch is a superb team shooter with a refreshingly diverse cast of characters. Six people play on each team in different roles (tanks, assault, support) and the game encourages you to cooperate and help one another. Casey and her friends’ in-game roles in SkyWake come straight out of Overwatch’s class system and the lessons they learn about working together are inspired by my experiences playing it. Fish’s shield owes a debt to Reinhardt’s energy barrier too. ‘Get behind my shield!’

THE RECRUIT by Robert Muchamore

This is going to seem like an odd choice… The Recruit doesn’t feature any aliens or spaceships. But what it does, brilliantly, is reach out to young readers whose attention is split between the page and the screen. Muchamore once said he’s not competing with other books for readers but with PlayStations and Xboxes. To convince readers to put down their controllers, he crafts immersive and intense action scenes and writes in a stripped back style. The Recruit encouraged me to write a story that would feel propulsive and unstoppable. I wanted SkyWake to give you that ‘one more go’ feeling you get from the best games. ‘Just one more chapter…’

Thank you so much to Jamie for these brilliant inspirations and recommendations! We can’t wait for the next book in the SkyWake series – we are hooked!!

SkyWake Invasion is published by Walker Books on 1st July 2021.

You can follow the rest of this buzzing blog tour by checking out the other stops!

Go and read Steph’s brilliant Q&A with Jamie on her fab blog, A Little But A Lot

Image preview

Thank you to Kirsten and the brilliant Walker Books team for inviting us to take part in this fab blog tour!

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