Nation by Terry Pratchett

Title:  Nation

Author:  Terry Pratchett

Paperback:  332 pages (Advanced Reader Edition)

ISBN:  9780061433016

Challenges:  ARC challenge

… Cox was not like a shark.  He was worse.  Sharks are just eating machines.  They don’t have a choice.  First Mate Cox had a choice, every day, and had chosen to be First Mate Cox.  And that was a strange choice, because if evil was a disease, then First Mate Cox would have been in a isolation ward on a bleak island somewhere.  And even then, the bunnies nibbling at the seaweed would start to fight one another.  Cox was, in fact, contagious.  where his shadow fell, old friendships snapped and little wars broke out, milk soured, weevils fled from every stale ship’s biscuit, and rats queued up to jump into the sea…

-Nation by Terry Pratchett, page 240 (ARE)

Nation is my first reading experience of Terry Pratchett.  I have Good Omens, which he co-authored with Neil Gaiman, on Mt. TBR, but I haven’t read it yet.  After reading this book, though, I can say that Pratchett and Gaiman would be a good fit.  I have seen the miniseries “The Color of Magic” based on Pratchett’s book by the same name, and loved it, so I wasn’t a complete Pratchett virgin ;-)

Nation is an alternate-reality fantasy teen fiction.  Fun category… lol.  A point made in the book by Locaha, god of death, is that there is no such thing as “does not happen,” only “does not happen here.”  For every event that does or does not occur, the alternate occurs in another of the millions and billions of other imperfect worlds Imo, the god of creation, made.  And in the world of Nation, there are tree-climbing octopi and an Island named after every holiday that was ever created, including “Mrs Ethel J. Bundy’s Birthday Island.”

Nation begins with a mighty crashing wave that wipes out all of Mau’s village.  Mau, who was returning from his trial to become a man, believes he’s left his boy-soul on the island of children, and has no way of receiving his man-soul without the others.  Therefore, he believes he has no soul.  When other survivors of the great wave begin turning up on his island, they view him with suspicion and awe, as a Demon Boy.  Among the other survivors is an English girl who also has shed her former self in the form of her name, Ermintrude, and has created a new person, one with purpose, by the name of Daphne.  Unbeknownst to Daphne, she is the only child of the last heir to the Throne… unless they go about crowning Frenchies, that is… and no one wants that, especially the French (paraphrased from the book, don’t hate me!)

Pratchett’s humor is just one thing I loved about this book.  It’s highly imaginative, too.  But more than that, it’s insightful.  He sees into the heart of people and gives the reader truth disguised as lies, which is what the best of art is all about.  Pratchett presents us with a boy without a soul who does not allow the past to pull him under, but instead makes a new soul for himself, one that is stronger than any has ever had before.  He shows us a girl who has been forced to sit by and helplessly watch her mother and newborn brother die, the emasculation of her father by her grandmother, and the loss of all she knew, who creates for herself a person with purpose and power.  The two of them, Mau and Daphne, become the pillars that the new Nation cling to and revere.

I could definitely read Nation a second time and get a new story, or just read it again because it’s beautiful and funny and fascinating.  My oldest daughter, Sam, wants me to hurry up and finish the review so she can cabbage onto it and ferret it away in her room to read and enjoy over and over, so I may have to buy another book.  It’d be worth it ;-)

I give Nation by Terry Pratchett 5 out of 5 stars and add it to my list of favorites :-)

OH, and something interesting to add:  The book was just published in October of ’08, but the National Theater of London has already dramatized it into a play.  It’s actually a book I would enjoy seeing turned into a movie.  I think it could be done very well.

Goblins! An UnderEarth Adventure by Royce Buckingham

Title:  Goblins! An UnderEarth Adventure

Author:  Royce Buckingham

Hardcover:  232 pages

Date Published:  2008

Publisher:  G. P. Putnam’s Sons (div of Penguin Young Readers Group)

ISBN:  9780399250026

PJ put on one of his father’s spare POLICE jackets. “C’mon, we’re already here.  Besides, you said it takes an hour round trip to get to the border crossing and back.  Any smugglers would probably still be forty minutes away.”

PJ was reaching to put the car into park when something moved in the darkness.  A patch of shadow shifted against a background of dark trees.  As soon as he noticed it, it was gone.  “What was that?” he said.

“What was what?” Sam said, staring into the forest.  “I can’t see a thing.  It’s pitch-black.”

PJ reached down and flipped the headlight switch.  The sudden light glared on a dark, husky human shape in front of the car.  It waved a club-shaped object and brought it down onto the metal hood of the cruiser.

Wham!

“Smuggler!” Sam yelled.

PJ’s foot was still on the gas pedal.  He jammed it down instinctively, and the car lurched forward.  There was no time for the figure to move.  Thud!  It went down like a bowling pin and disappeared beneath the bumper.

PJ hit the brakes and the police cruiser jerked to a stop.  He took a deep breath and quickly locked the door.

“You hit him!” Sam cried.

“I know,” PJ breathed, staring into the woods.

“He’s under the car!”

“I know!”

“What if he’s a farmer or something?”  Sam said.

“You’re the one who screamed that he was a smuggler.”

“How do I know who he is?”

“It’s your stupid little town!”  PJ snapped.

A low, pained growl rose from beneath the car.

“He’s alive,” PJ said, relieved.  “Let’s get out of here.”

“We can’t leave him,” Sam said.  “There’s no way he can be okay after you smushed him.”

PJ shook his head.  “Dude, I just ran over a guy in a borrowed police car.  My instincts tell me to drive far away and never speak of this again.”

-Goblins! An UnderEarth Adventure by Royce Buckingham, pages 16-17

Goblins! by Royce Buckingham has been some of the most fun 200-some pages of reading I’ve had in a while.  The characters are normal, average teens who are called upon to act in extraordinary ways to save each other and to protect their world from the goblins of the UnderEarth. 

One of the things I like about this book is that there are no 100% evil bad guys in the book, they’re a mix of good and bad.  While PJ would prefer to stay out of things, he chooses to step up and take responsibility for his actions and for Sam, who was left in his care by his father.  Sam wants adventure, and bites off a lot more than he can chew, but nevertheless manages to prove he has a heart of a warrior.  The goblins have silly, descriptive names like “General Eww-Yuk,” “Slurp,” “Slouch,” “Thick,” etc,  enjoy eating humans, fighting, humans as well as each other, are dumber than a bag of hammers, yet they are extremely inquisitive and quick to learn and adapt.

Another thing that I liked about Goblins! is that the writing is simple, the details are just enough to make things easy to picture but not so thick that it bogs you down.  At times it reminds me of The Spiderwick Chronicles, and at other times Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Besides having a highly imaginative setting and great actions scenes, including 7 foot bugs-versus-human battles, it also has a great sense of humor.  It is a book with teenagers as the heroes and main characters, so the surliness and sarcasm of the age often shines through.  For instance:  When Sam is brought before General Eww-yuk by the goblin Bargle

“Have you talked to it?” Eww-yuk asked.

“Yes,” Bargle said.  “It barks the words ‘screw’ and ‘off’ … over and over.”

-Goblins! An UnderEarth Adventure by Royce Buckingham, page 71

I think this book is ideal for the tweenage-early teen years, 9-14, and probably more for boys than girls, though I think Mags will enjoy and laugh at it.  I’d also like to warn that this book does contain the deaths of central characters that readers may get attached to, so if your reader is potentially sensitive to this, then you might want to wait. 

For being one of the most enjoyable, reality-suspending, relaxing books I’ve read in a long time, a book that wasn’t teaching the reader or delivering a message (if it was, I didn’t notice at all), a book that was just like losing 25 years and being on the playground again…  I give Goblins! An UnderEarth Adventure by Royce Buckingham 4 out of 5 stars.  It probably won’t win any awards, but it is pure pleasure.

 

Don’t forget to sign up to win a copy of Goblins! An UnderEarth Adventure in the Great Goblins! Giveaway. Contest ends 11;59 pm, May 31st, with the winner to be announced on Monday, June 1st!

Great Goblins! Giveaway

I’ve just started reading Goblins! An UnderEarth Adventure by Royce Buckingham, and it’s a lot of fun. It’s a fast and easy read, and I may get Mags to do a guest review on it, as well… seems like something she’d really enjoy. It reminds me a bit of The Spiderwick Chronicles, with goblins and kids battling goblins and goblin goo all over, but it’s its own book as well.

 

Here’s a trailer for the book:

and a blurb from Amazon.com:

Sneaking out into the woods near the Canadian border, Sam and PJ come across what looks like a mutant gorilla with a bad attitude. But it’s no ape— it’s a goblin, and thousands more of them live under the earth, kept in check only by a small corps of human Guardians.
Sam finds a tunnel below the surface, and in no time he’s in the goblins’ clutches. With goblin leaders Eww-Yuk and Slurp at odds, it will take all of PJ’s strength and ingenuity to get Sam back—but then again, how hard could it be to outsmart a goblin?

Featuring the high adventure and slapstick humor that made Demonkeeper a fantasy favorite, Goblins! is a subterranean romp that will keep readers laughing as they race through the pages to see what happens next.

So, I want to share the Goblin! fun with you! I have a second, spanking-new copy to give away to a lucky winner. I think we’ll keep this one quick and easy.

  1. Leave a comment here to enter the contest.
  2. Blog this contest for an extra 3 entries, and make sure to leave a comment with the link.
  3. email 5 people or more about the contest, make sure to include me ( ibetnoonehasthisdamnid@yahoo.com )  in the CC, for another 3 entries.
  4. Post the contest and link (shortened URL: http://bit.ly/vX3Se ) on Twitter, make sure to include @thekoolaidmom in your tweet so I’ll catch it, for another 3 bonus entries.
  5. Leave a comment on the review of the book when I post it Saturday for another bonus entry.

Contest is open until 11:59 pm, EDT, and I’ll post the winners names on Monday, June 1st :-)  Good luck!

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Title:  Neverwhere

Author:  Neil Gaiman

Paperback: 400 pages

Date Published:  1996

Publisher:  Harper Torch (div of HarperCollins)

ISBN:  9780380789016

“So what are you after?”  Richard asked Hunter.  The three of them were walking, with extreme care, along the bank of an underground river.  The bank was slippery, a narrow path along dark rock and sharp masonry.  Richard watched with respect as the gray water rushed and tumbled, within arm’s reach.  This was not the kind of river you fell into and got out of again; it was the other kind.

“After?”

“Well,” he said.  “Personally, I’m trying to get back to the real London, and my old life.  Door wants to find out who killed her family.  What are you after?”  They edged along the bank, a step at a time, Hunter in the lead.  She said nothing in reply.  The river slowed and fed into a small underground lake.  They walked beside the water, their lamps reflecting in the black surface, their reflections smudged by the river mist.  “So what is it?”  asked Richard.  He did not expect any kind of answer.

Hunter’s voice was quiet and intense.  She did not break her step as she spoke.  “I fought in the sewers beneath New York with the great blind white alligator-king.  He was thirty feet long, fat from sewage and fierce in battle.  And I bested him, and I killed him.  His eyes were like huge pearls in the darkness.”  Her strangely accented voice echoed in the underground, twined in the mist, in the night beneath the Earth.

“…And I shall slay the Beast of London.  They say his hide bristles with swords and spears and knives stuck in him by those who have tried and failed.  His tusks are razors, and his hooves are thunderbolts.  I will kill him, or I will die in the attempt.”

-Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, pages 226-227

Meet Richard, Richard Mayhew… Dick.  Mild-mannered, Scottish born, hard-working London resident and all-around nice guy.  Richard is affianced to the eager, forward-thinking and career-driven (read:  controlling and pushy) Jessica who sees Richard as a project:  lots of potential, but also lot of work.  Richard’s life is dull, he has no family, and Gary, his co-worker, is his only friend… other than Jess… I mean Jessica.

Then, as he and Jessica are on the way to dinner with her boss, they come upon a strange girl, hurt and bleeding, in need of help.  Richard is compelled to help the girl, to which Jessica gives him an ultimatum:  Either he leaves the girl for someone else to help, or he can consider their engagement over.  Richard has no choice BUT to help and leave Jessica to dine with her employer alone.

However, in helping the girl, whose name is Door, he quickly finds his life is turned upside down, literally.  Suddenly, he no longer exists.  People don’t seem to see or hear him.  Cabs won’t stop for him.  Even the people in his office don’t know him and his desk and all his cubicle’s contents are gone.  Bewildered and feeling alone, he returns to his apartment to take a bath, only to be surprised by his landlord showing his place to a couple looking to rent.  He is forced to return to London Below to find Door and to find a way to get his life back.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman is like Alice in Wonderland meets Grimms Fairy Tales, with a bit of Wizard of Oz and an ending reminiscent of El Dorado.  London Below is like a walk through history.  Every thing and everyone who has slipped through the cracks and has been lost, overlooked, and forgotten can be found in London Below.  Creatures lurk in the sewers and under subway platforms, and everyone is dangerous. 

Neverwhere is an urban fairy tale, with the teeth to scare you and fill your inner child with wonder.  I really enjoy Gaiman’s writing style, as well as his ability to weave a magical web of a story that draws you in and keeps you entranced.  When it was exciting and intriguing, I couldn’t put it down; I had to know what happened next.  And when it wasn’t being scary, I didn’t wantto put the book down because I was enraptured by the story itself.  The idea that somewhere Roman soldiers who deserted are huddled around a campfire, telling dirty jokes in Latin.

With Neverwhere, Gaiman flexes his imaginative muscles, but it’s more than just a fantasy book.  It has  a mystery to solve, both Richard and Door mature through their adventures, and prejudices have to be overcome if they want to survive.  Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman is a well-crafted story and I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

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Ever wonder where Gaiman gets his story ideas? In this vid clip, he reveals his source :-)

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