Saturday, January 7, 2012

I Am... a little embarassed

You can't always trust bestsellers. Just because everyone else is reading them doesn't mean they're good. Take The Da Vinci Code for example: some of the poorest writing around, but strangers would see me reading it and feel compelled to stop and tell me it was their "favorite book EVER." I'd sometimes ask: Oh, do you read much? No, was the usual reply, but they LOVED it. And... I guess it was kind of exciting and the plot was sorta clever. Not good enough to read anything more by the author, though.  (I think it's what's called a 'plot-driven' story as opposed to 'character-driven.')

Occasionally I listen to audio books at work. I had one on my "library wish list" called I Am Number Four, and since it was available and not too long and seemed interesting and I recalled that the movie trailer looked kinda cool... I downloaded it. The plot certainly sounded good: "They caught Number One in Malaysia. Number Two in England. And Number Three in Kenya. They killed them all. I am Number Four. I am next." How could you help but be interested by that? Basically, the story is that 9 young refugees from the planet Lorien are hiding out on Earth from savage aliens who've already destroyed Lorien and are now hunting them down. They each have an adult protector who keeps them safe and will help them develop special powers when they get older, but they already have abilities that would make them superheroes compared to us. But mostly they keep a low profile and move around a lot to avoid the bad guys. Number 4, or Daniel Jones as he's known in the beginning until he changes his name to John Smith, is the main character in this book. When he finds out Number 3 has been killed (a burning circle appears on his ankle and leaves a scar as each one is killed - and because of a charm they can only be killed in order) he and his guardian Henri move from Florida to Paradise, Ohio. And it's in Ohio that John finally makes some friends.

It's kind of slow-moving while the story sets up but the plot is clever enough that it drew me in. Unfortunately, the writing isn't very good - and for a Young Adult book it's loaded with profanity. The writing gets worse as the story builds, and it finishes with a big cinematic flourish that got hard to follow. Throw in a sappy love story with a perfect girlfriend and I grew disappointed with it. And the audio book narrator was pretty bad - one voice sounded like Napoleon Dynamite and another like he was holding his nose. Still, it was a quick and mostly interesting story, even if I found myself rolling my eyes fairly often. But what about that author: Pittacus Lore? Obviously a pen name, so I looked him up. Hmmm, it's a couple of writers, one named James Frey. That name sounds familiar. Oh yeah, that's the stupid author of a memoir who caused a scandal because it turned out he made up a bunch of stuff to make himself sound interesting. (And yet, jerks like him are making lots of money, but I guess we can't expect someone who has no character to create characters with depth.)

At any rate it was mildly entertaining, but not something I'd want the kids to listen to because of all the profanity. Still not decided if I'll bother with the next book or not.


  1. Hah - this gave Jon ad I a chuckle. Jon new exactly who that Frey guys was. I remembered something, too. I guess you need a fake name if you have written lies.
    We actually considered renting this movie a few nights ago. Thanks for saving us the money. ;0)

  2. Yeah, and I remember talking with Jon about how bad Da Vinci Code was. ASK can't say about the movie - I know the trailer looked good - but the writing in the book was pretty bad. But it was clearly written for the screen.