Book Report: Gregor the Overlander
24 August 2006, 9:19 PM
By latest count, Your Humble Blogger is sixteen books behind in this Book Report business. Some of them were pretty good, too. Others, not so much. Gregor the Overlander was a fairly good one. It had one of my least favorite things in YASF, but then it conspicuously doesn’t have a different one of my least favorite things in YASF. So, there it is.
There’s a fairly common trope in Young Adult SpecFic (and Old Adult too, for that matter) of a community of people who at some point got cut off from the rest of the world and over a few centuries develops a parallel society, underground or on an island or on a spaceship or a planet or somewhere. Now, for some reason, this parallel society often stops inventing new things or progressing in any way, so that it is discovered as a sort of time window into an ancient way of doing things. Suzanne Collins avoids this, and in fact when Gregor goes Under to the bizarre (and nicely urban) wonderland, he comments on some cool inventions they have that we don’t, and one of the residents essentially replies that they are isolated, but they aren’t stupid. This is unlike the people in The City of Ember, who are about as sharp as a marijuana cigarette.
There is another fairly common in YASF where a Prophecy has been made by somebody in the distant past with cryptic but detailed references to things that are going on Right Now (in story time). Our heroes need to figure out what the scroll means in order to get plot coupons, or even more annoyingly they have no way of figuring out what the scroll means until after they have the plot coupons and the scroll is of no use, or even more annoyingly, the scroll only has enough information to tell the reader what plot coupon is next, while our heroes blunder about aimlessly. And fairly often the prophecy is in absurd detail, knowing that (if I remember correctly) of the Fellowship of Eight, four will die, without telling which four because ... well, from the author’s point of view, there are plenty of reasons, but from the prophet’s? Er...
Now, I don’t believe in foretelling the future and all that, but I do understand that it’s a genre convention of sorts, and I don’t necessarily dislike every book with a Scroll of Prophecy. Good Omens had a lot of fun with the idea, and Dune does some nice trickery with it. But I am disposed to find it annoying. And the more annoying it is, the more difficult I find it to like the likeable things in the book.
Like the giant bats. That people ride on. To have swordfights. With giant rats.
chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek,