Eighth Grade vs. the Machines: AN Interview WITH AUTHOR Joshua S. Levy

Get ready for a fast-paced, sci-fi adventure in Eighth Grade vs. the Machines! After the entire population of Earth’s solar system is whisked away by alien technology, Jack and his classmates and teachers aboard the PSS 118 are the only humans left. It’s up to them to find and rescue the rest of humanity—if they can avoid the aliens hunting them down, steer clear of a robot civil war, and figure out who among them might be a traitor.

Today Joshua S. Levy, author of the Adventures of the PSS 118 series joins us to answer a few questions. Read on to discover what books inspire his writing, his opinion on space stories, and a brand new book trailer.

Hi Josh! We’re so excited about EIGHTH GRADE VS. THE MACHINES, the sequel to SEVENTH GRADE VS. THE GALAXY. Can you tell us a bit about where we find the kids of the Public School Spaceship 118 at the start of the sequel?

Hello! And of course! Trying to be as non-spoilery as possible, where we last met our heroes, they were…somewhere? About to do…something? And now, they’re on the cusp of doing that thing! Wait. No. That’s probably too non-spoilery. How’s this: The mission continues, as the kids and teachers of the PSS 118 board their beloved (and sarcastic) schoolship—and set back out into the galaxy, to uncover the truth about what happened the previous summer and, you know, try to save the world.

Can you tell us anything about that sinister-looking figure hovering at the top of the cover?

Yes, that’s a self-proclaimed robot “emperor” with an appreciation for standup comedy. Obviously.

What do you think makes “outer space” such a fun backdrop against which to tell a story?

The scale of it, for one thing. Space is endless. And so are the wacky/scary/breathtaking settings and adventures that a few seventh (now eighth!) graders can find themselves in. And maybe it’s also something else. Space is just so fundamentally…hopeful. Is that naïve? I know that SEVENTH GRADE VS. THE GALAXY and EIGHTH GRADE VS. THE MACHINES aren’t the most serious books in the world. (Or the universe.) But I do think the protagonists channel some of the hope and curiosity that lot of us feel in the “real world” when we think about space. I wonder what’s around the next corner? I wonder what we’ll discover tomorrow? These questions are at the heart of how we think about space today—and Jack, Becka, and Ari echo the same questions at every turn.

So do you think a reader needs to specifically enjoy “space stories” to enjoy your books?

Oh! Absolutely not. I’ve said this before and genuinely believe it: I don’t think you need to have a great love of Long Island summer camps to enjoy Percy Jackson, and I don’t think you need to love space to enjoy SEVENTH GRADE VS. THE GALAXY or EIGHTH GRADE VS. THE MACHINES. (Although maybe it helps? There are certainly quite a few breadcrumbs in the books for kids interested in astronomy.) A good story—with compelling characters you can root for—is a good story.

Speaking of good stories, any particular ones inspire this series?

Definitely. I’ve always loved genre fiction—especially of the serial variety. For SEVENTH GRADE VS. THE GALAXY and all the spaceyness: Star Wars (especially the expanded universe novels, old and new) and Star Trek (especially Voyager). Babylon 5 and Douglas Adams. Doctor Who. The Expanse. For EIGHTH GRADE VS. THE MACHINES and all the robotyness: Battlestar Galactica for sure. Terminator, I suppose. Mostly because it’s hard to ignore. Doctor Who (again). Star Trek: Voyager (again). Dune is probably in there somewhere too. I wouldn’t exactly say the story I’m telling is inspired by any particular moments from these other stories. But the fact of them. That they exist absolutely inspired me to want to add one of my own to the mix. One not just readable by kids, but written for them.

And what do you most want kid-readers to come away with?

That’s an easy one. Fun. I most want readers to have fun. Laugh. Race through chapters, excited to find out what happens next. There are a lot of incredible, important middle grade books out (and coming out) that center real challenges and hardships in the lives of real kids. SEVENTH GRADE VS. THE GALAXY and EIGHTH GRADE VS. THE MACHINES…are not those books. Instead, I set out to write something…transportive. I was the kind of kid that very much enjoyed escaping into a faraway story. And I feel privileged to have written one that I hope does the same for readers now.

Praise for Eighth Grade vs. the Machines

“A goofy, fast-paced interstellar adventure.”—School Library Journal

“Hilarious, high-stakes, un-put-downable fun.”—Jarrett Lerner, author of the EngiNerds series

“Another amazing trip across the galaxy with the students of PSS 118!”— Monica Tesler, author of the Bounders series

Check out the first book in the series

Seventh Grade vs. the Galaxy by Joshua S. Levy

PSS 118 is just your typical school—except that it’s a rickety old spaceship orbiting Ganymede, a moon of Jupiter. Jack’s dad used to be the science teacher, until he got fired for tinkering with the ship. Now Jack just wants to get through the last day of school without anything else going wrong.

But when the school is mysteriously attacked, Jack discovers that his dad has built humanity’s first light-speed engine—and given Jack control of it. To save the ship, Jack catapults it hundreds of light-years away . . . and right into the clutches of the first aliens humans have ever seen. School hasn’t just gotten out: it’s gone clear across the galaxy.

And now it’s up to Jack and his friends to get everyone home.

“[T]his middle-grade action-adventure space opera is just plain fun.”—Booklist

“A perfect bridge for readers looking for a Percy Jackson–esque work of science fiction.”—School Library Journal

Book Trailer

Connect with the Author

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