Genre: Science fiction, Young Adult
Narrative Style: First Person, Chronological
Synopsis: John Smith is number four, one of nine aliens who made their way to earth when their own planet was destroyed by the Mogadorians. These aggressive aliens are chasing down the remaining nine and have already killed numbers 1-3. John knows he is next.
There was good and bad with this book and I really wasn’t sure what to rate it. In the end it was more disappointing then anything so I decided on 2.5/5.
I thought the opening chapter – recounting the death of Three was very exciting and pacy and I was hoping that the rest of the novel would live up to this. Obviously, the pace had to drop a bit so the author could introduce us to John and Henri. However, it did take along time to pick up again. When it did, I enjoyed the battle with the Mogadorians as it was hard to see how the John and his friends could possibly win.
However, even then, I found the plotting clumsy. John suddenly realises what his special power (legacy) will be – just in time to use it to control the beasts the Mogadorians use for fighting. There were hints as to his ability with animals for the reader but John remained resolutely clueless until the crucial moment.
I found the romance between John and Sarah a bit mushy and some of the dialogue was truly terrible. (Not just there – some of the conversations between John and Henri are equally nauseating.) She accepts his alien status very easily – without question really and that didn’t ring true. The ending – which should have been emotional – was merely corny and irritating.
Similarly, Mark, who has been John’s sworn enemy at school, suddenly comes on side. Just in time to fight in fact. It is not satisfactorily explained how he came to be at John’s house at just the right time. He seems to have no trouble with the alien idea either. Sam was more convincing – desperately clinging onto the idea of aliens as an explanation for his father’s disappearance. He was more rounded than the other characters and when he realises that John is an alien, he tries to shoot him. This is at least a reaction of some sort.
Finally, I found the politics of the story a little too straightforward. Aggressive aliens versus peace-loving ones seems a bit of a cliche. The Loriens once almost destroyed their planet (the evolutionary stage that earthlings are at now) but realised in time that they needed to change their ways and live in harmony with the planet. There’s a lesson there and not a very subtle one. It’s an old story and one that is retold here in a clumsy, corny way.