Friday, May 17, 2013

Book Review: Alacatraz Vs. the Evil Librarians

I love reading anything by Brandon Sanderson. His talent for creating fantasy worlds and
unique and never-before heard of magical abilities is unparalleled. I'm continually amazed-- every book series of his is completely different than anything else I've ever read-- just fantastic. I think he's quickly become my favorite author. 

His first youth fiction book, "Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians" is a quick, funny read, packed full of adventure and glib, self-aware narration, and the witty, layered remarks from the cheeky title character keep it moving along at a good pace. 13-year old Alcatraz begins by warning the reader that he is not really a very nice person, then launches into the first story of his adventures battling the evil librarians, who have been secretly enslaving us "Hushlanders" and teaching us false history, science and geography.

Being a librarian myself, I found the premise of a world controlled by secretly evil librarians (the "Hushlands") hilarious and intriguing. I knew I had to read this book. Of course, the evil women librarians are all horn-rimmed glasses-and-bun-wearing women who prefer things (especially books) to be in order and to "avoid making an incident".

There are some very funny sideways references to "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", "Harry Potter" (in a scathing and very funny exchange between Alcatraz and his grandfather in the last scene) and other other works of fiction-- little, hidden Easter eggs for fantasy/sci-fi fans. I laughed out loud at those. Alcatraz also lampoons authors, reading, literature, and readers of fantasy with his snarky commentary. 

I also enjoyed that the heroes' names are all names of prisons: Alcatraz, Leavenworth, Sing-Sing,  Bastille and Quentin. And I thought the talking, harmless dinosaurs was genius.

The very best thing about the book, though, is the first of two surprising "magic" systems. The second (Occulation- the use of special lenses for specific purposes by special people called Occulators) isn't really fully understood in this book-- I can only assume books 2-4 will address them both in more detail. The first magic is very amusing and completely unexpected. The talents of the leading good guys are things such as "the ability to fall down" or "always arriving late" or, in Alcatraz's case, "breaking things". This may not sound like much, but the way the characters use these talents is brilliant and unique.

I look forward to reading the rest of the books. Sanderson wrote on his blog that this was intended to be a 5-book series, but as of today, only 4 have been published, so it will be interesting to see whether it's wrapped up in 4, or left hanging. 

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