Sunday, November 7, 2010
REVIEW: Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens
Internetz, you have not been witness to it. But a great battle of wills was just averted. When my co-assistant and I learned that our boss was receiving an advance copy of the fourth book in the Alcatraz series, we went to war with one another. My boss's office was left in far from perfect condition. Her many books were tossed from their slumping shelves, torn to pieces. Shredded pages rained down like apocalyptic ash.
Who would get to read the Alcatraz book first?! She was willing to skip classes to read it. I was willing to set aside Dudley the Dissertation for Alcatraz. Who would win?
Perhaps some great power sensed that another war to end all wars was brewing. Perhaps somebody over at Scholastic can't read. But we were sent TWO COPIES of Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens. One for each assistant. (Our boss doesn't get to read it. When we informed her of this, she took it surprisingly well.)
Appetizer: The fourth book of Alcatraz's memoirs can be thought of as "the part where everything goes wrong, and then Alcatraz has a cheese sandwich." Alcatraz's words, not mine.
War has broken out between the librarians and the free kingdom of Mokia. Alcatraz, his friends and family hope to send reinforcements. But the Knights and other kingdoms won't help. So it's up to Alcatraz and his friends to figure out a plan. There's just no guarantee that it'll be a good one.
The resulting story involves a better understanding of the Smedry talents, meeting another Smedry cousin (this one is bad at math), lots of stoopidity and a nakey Alcatraz. (Naked, to you adult types.)
I am SO amazed by Brandon Sanderson's ability to be consistently HILARIOUS throughout his children's books. I've tried to write funny in the past and it almost always ends painfully for me. And not in a humorous painful way with a bucket on my head and with boxers with little hearts exposed. Just painfully with me deciding to limp back into my serious (with moments of levity!) fiction.
(Sidenote: Have you heard of Writing Excuses? Sanderson co-hosts regular fifteen-minute podcasts about various aspects of creative writing. The podcasts are essentially an awesome writing MFA program that you can listen to at your leisure for free. I highly recommend listening!)
Where was I?
The fourth Alcatraz book still had me chuckling. In this round, I especially liked Sanderson's approach to chapter titles. Some chapters are missing. (Gaps! The reader can fill them in! Funzies!) Others are titled according to some advanced math (Or advanced math for me. My brain stopped accounting for what those crazy numbers were doing after eighth grade.) Maybe the chapter titles are just nonsense. I wouldn't know the difference!
My biggest complaint about the book is the cover. I know I'm not really the target audience, but I really don't like the photoshopped appearance. Especially since it seems like Bastille is in the exact same position on the covers of both the third and fourth books:
Call me crazy, but I don't think that's the best stance for fighting a knight OR a giant robot. I guess I should just be impressed that they used the same models. Way to be cohesive!
It is worth noting that this book ends with more problems left unresolved than the other books so far. It gave the book a "the end of The Empire Strikes Back" feel. To be concluded in the next installment. So, stay tuned!
So now the wait for the fifth and final (*weeps*) book begins.
"I am an idiot.
You should know this already, if you've read the previous three volumes of my autobiography" (Author's Foreword).
"So, there I was, holding a pink teddy bear in my hand. It had a red bow and an inviting, cute, bearlike smile. Also, it was ticking" (p. 1).
"We'd need to put someone in danger who is so valuable the knights have to respond. But this person also has to be uncompromisingly stoopid. It's idiocy on a grand scale to send oneself directly to a palace on the brink of destruction, surrounded by Librarians, in a doomed kingdom! Why, they'd have to be stoopid on a colossal degree. Of the likes previously unseen to all of humankind!"
And suddenly, for some reason, all eyes in the room turned toward me" (pp. 27-28).
"If you've ever thought that books are boring, it's because you don't know how to read them correctly. From now on, when you read a book, I want you to scream the words of the novel out loud while reading them, then do exactly what the characters are doing in the story.
Trust me, it will make books way more exciting. Even dictionaries. Particularly dictionaries. So go ahead and try it out with this next part of the book. If you do it right, you'll win the bonus prize" (p. 37).
"...I haven't talked much about religion in these books.
This is intentional, mostly from a self-preservation standpoint. I've discovered that talking about religion has a lot in common with wearing a catcher's mask: Both give people liberty to throw things at you. (And in the case of religion, sometimes the "things" are lightning bolts.)" (p. 107).
"...We are faced by superior numbers and superior firepower. In the moments before you arrived, I had made the difficult decision to surrender. I was on my way to the wall to announce it to the Librarians."
The words hung in the air like a foul stench--the kind that everyone notices but doesn't want to point out, for fear of being named the one who caused it" (p. 113-114).
Tasty Rating: !!!!!