Tuesday, August 07, 2007

ooh, selling out

MotherTalk book blog tour:
Maximum Ride 3: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports
By James Patterson

Once, many years ago, Octuplet Dazzle and I went on a trip with my parents. We each brought a handful of paperback books of airport quality, that we could read, trade, and then dump in some hostel in South America. One of these books was a James Patterson work, the title of which escapes me. It dealt with a kind-hearted veterinarian who encounters a group of genetically engineered children on the run from the Bad Scientists. The children, luckily, have an advantage, in that they can fly. It got sillier from there.
This was easily the worst of the entire batch of pretty lousy books on the trip. We may have traded it for a cup of coffee in BaƱos. Sorry, coffee vendor.
Well, at some point Patterson must have realized that even for weary travelers and people stranded in airports, tales of flying children were kind of a stretch. But the idea must have seemed too good to drop entirely, as the scenario has been tweaked and rebranded and turned into a series of books aimed at children, who presumably don’t balk at the idea that “recombinant DNA” results in children who can fly (and read minds!) And this novel is just bursting with themes that appeal to kids: Kids Alone In the Woods, Kids vs. Grownups, Loyal Friends.
The execution is strained, however. There’s a feeling of self-consciousness running through the book (to the point of having the narrator-heroine chastise the reader for starting with the third book in the series). There is also a kind of gimmicky ‘blog’ aspect introduced by one of the characters. This fourth-wall-breaking doesn’t really add much to the tale, though I laughed out loud at the ‘blog comments’, which were authentically spelled.
Past all these awkward details is a standard adventure with plenty of sci-fi elements, a band of righteous kids, and some super-super-super-villains. The story is frequently violent and I have a feeling that this series is more popular among boys than girls, despite the central character being a girl. In this respect, it’s a bit unusual--books aimed at boys almost exclusively feature boys in key roles (think CYOA books). Max, the heroine of this series, exhibits virtues generally tagged as ‘male’, though, such as toughness, aversion to tears, distaste for ‘mushy’ feelings, and physical strength, which tells me she has probably been written to appeal to boys.
And appeal she does, as the Maximum Ride series is tops on many bestseller lists. I suspect the readers overlap with fans of Eoin Colfer’s fantasy novels. If you’ve got a ten-year-old, you probably don’t need to read all these reviews anyway: you’re probably drowning in Maximum Ride titles already, and will be shelling out the clams for movie tix in 2008. It’s already a successful franchise, and I’m sure Patterson sleeps on a giant pile of hundred-dollar bills, but its shelf life is limited, and I don’t expect your grandkids to be reading this series.


Anonymous said...

love your reviews! keep em coming!

Becky said...

you are freaking hilarious!

Candace said...

Um -why are you reading books for ten year old boys?

Shirky said...

ah candace. because I'm selling out. Well. I actually read kids' books all the time. I probably wouldn't have chosen this one though, except for the filthy lucre.