Books Read in 2014 – 50. I am Number Four – Pittacus Lore

Genre: Science fiction, Young Adult

Narrative Style: First Person, ChronologicalI_Am_Number_Four_Cover

Rating 2.5/5

Published: 2010

Format: Kindle

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.

Books Read in 2014 – 42. Chocky by John Wyndham

download (12)
Genre: Dystopia
Narrative Style: First person, chronological
Rating 4/5
Published: 1970
Format: Kindle
Synopsis: When Matthew starts to communicate with an unseen being named Chocky, his parents are understandably worried. After all, Matthew is too old for an imaginary friend. Furthermore, Matthew is starting to ask questions that seem to have come from somewhere beyond his own mind. As time passes, they grow more and more concerned and involve outside help. This turns out to be a big mistake.

There were a couple of reasons for choosing to read this book. I could vaguely remember the TV series and was curious to read the book behind it. Secondly, I had been meaning to read more Wyndham since reading The Day of the Triffids a few years ago. So I had high hopes for the book and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. This is a really good read and the only thing that stopped it getting five stars is that sometimes it seemed a little old fashioned which is inevitable, I suppose, with this sort of fiction.
The story begins with Matthew’s parents noticing little oddities that are out of place for an eleven year old – like having an imaginary friend. It seems harmless enough and although they are curious, they are not unduly worried, as their son seems happy enough in himself.
However, clues begins to appear that suggest that this is no ordinary imaginary being. Matthew starts to ask questions that are almost beyond his understanding. His teachers complain that he is starting to ask about concepts that are too difficult to explain and he sometimes appeared to be arguing with another being. They decide to seek outside help and it is suggested that Matthew may be possessed by an outside force. Understandably, they find this an unsatisfactory answer and seek help elsewhere.
Events do become more sinister – for example, Matthew rescues his sister from drowning without being able to swim. The press start to become interested and Matthew is sent to an important psychologist who equally has no answers for them.
I must admit that I wished I had no knowledge of the events that were to come as I could remember exactly who Chocky was, However, I could not remember the exact storyline and so when Matthew goes missing near the end of the novel, I was as perplexed as his parents. I also could not remember Chocky’s purpose in using Matthew as a reporter on this world. I was impressed by the ecological reasoning used by Chocky in her disgust at our dependency on fossil fuels that will inevitably disappear. This reads now like a warning still unheeded as we are still desperate for a clean, safe solution to this problem. There was a contrast between Chocky’s altruistic attitude and that of the doctors who want to exploit Matthew’s unusual knowledge.
The narrative is written from the point of view of David, Matthew’s father and was convincing in its curiosity about Chocky and its concern for Matthew. The story is written in a straightforward way but that only made the ending seem more devastating because the reader could believe in its reality. Very enjoyable.