October 11, 2010

CYBILS SFF BOOKMARK: ...from a galaxy far, far away

It wouldn't be easy to get used to Earth. I mean, the whole gravity-atmosphere-solar star activity aside, there are a bunch of us here, of every nation, kindred, tongue, ethnicity, and taste -- and that's not to mention the animal life. We Earthlings, we're kind of loud. And unusually determined. And we don't take kindly to much of anyone interrupting our ...lives.

Which is kind of why I'm always a little bit amused by science fiction or fantasy which includes tales of fish-out-of-water aliens coming to Earth. Like the aliens in The Men in Black, these are from a galaxy far, far away. They're just trying to blend in and be like us -- fall in love with us, and give up everything for us.

Um, not likely, to my mind. But, whatever - these are a couple I read recently:

I Am Number Four, by Pittacus Lore: Names and places have been changed to protect the six who remain in hiding. Take this as your first warning. Other civilizations do exist. Some of them seek to destroy you. This is the dire and somewhat chilling message given to us on the first page of I Am Number Four, and what follows is the story of a boy, changing identities for the umpteenth time. He and his guardian, Henri, burn anything that carries their names, including faked birth certificates and driver's licenses, pack up their clothes, and spirit themselves away to a new town, and assume new identities. It gets tiresome to the story's main character, who chooses the generic name John Smith on his way to his new life in Ohio. John wishes that his life was as generic and ordinary as his name -- but it's not, and there's no way it could be. John's a Lorien, an alien masquerading as a human, and he's a long way from home. He and his guardian are on the run from another race of aliens who have destroyed the Lorien's planet, in search of its natural resources. For reasons which are never adequately explained to me, these creatures are still after the Legacies, a group of special young Loriens with extraordinary gifts. John's main goal is to stay alive through his teen years in time for his gifts to manifest. With this in mind, he and Henri hole up in a small Ohio town -- where John meets the girl of his dreams, Sarah, a geeky boy named Sam who really does believe in aliens, and a two-dimensional cast of stock characters, including a jock with a posse of bullies, a sports-and-glory nostalgia obsessed principal, various mediocre teachers, and a town with sweetly hokey traditions such as hay rides and a bonfire on Halloween.

A quick read for those not wishing for any surprises, this book will be quickly followed up with a movie full of beautiful people who can't act. No, seriously. Also, the novelist is credited on the film site to be one James Frey, which explains oh, so much...

Halo, by Alexandra Adornetto: Bethany, together with Ivy and Gabriel are angels from the Kingdom of Heaven.

(Just look at the pretty cover? See?)

They've arrived in Venus Cove to make a difference and hope that by their subtle influence they can restore faith to the little community. Or, at least that's what Bethany's told. She'll be posing as a regular high school student at Bryce Hamilton school, and her brother, Gabriel, will be posing as a regular music teacher. Ivy will stay at home and get a toehold into the community, and assist with their mission in any way she can.

It's the simplest thing, really - they're angels, after all. Doing good should come naturally, and it should be easy enough to influence a town - but a rash of deaths and trouble have come through and it seems there's forces actively working against them. Still - they try to fit in and become part of the community. Somehow, though, humanity is awkward - for Ivy and Gabriel. Bethany takes to the world of mankind like an agile fish, swimming comfortably in the waters of parties and guys and climbing down her balcony to sneak out at night. She's found the boy of the dreams she didn't know she should have had -- Xavier the handsome, and her relationship with him is something Ivy and Gabriel fear, as they believe that Bethany is attracted beyond reason, and beyond hope -- and with her focus so shifted, she's in danger of forgetting the mission, and forgetting herself.

Though the reasons for the Dark Forces attacking this village remain incoherent, we're introduced to the people Bethany eventually fights to save -- a cardboard cast of stock characters which includes the beautiful loner, of course, a bad girl with a heart of gold, a mean boy who takes advantage of Bethany, a jealous boy and even Facebook has a role. The novel is a quick skim through the colorful, lively world of high school as contrasted to the colorless, ethereal world of the Kingdom, and reminds us all that high school is better than anything in the universe, and is worth giving up celestial glory. Or something like that.

If you'd like, you can buy Buy I AM NUMBER FOUR and HALO from an independent bookstore near you.


Kelly Fineman said...

These reviews are the equivalent of hubby's favorite negative film review: "Wait for it to come out on DVD, and then don't rent it."

HILARIOUSITY from the "word verification" function, which is similarly unimpressed with these books, and wants me to type the word "noraters". I kid you not.

aquafortis said...

James Frey? Seriously? Huh. That's a head-scratcher.

Actually, it does sound very movie-worthy. In fact, it sounds like a better movie than a book, maybe...a Syfy channel feature, perhaps? :)

HALO does have a rather striking cover...but I can't bring myself to read angel-related fantasy fiction. I just can't. I'll probably make an exception for Cynthia Leitich Smith, though.

tanita davis said...

Kelly: I had to rewrite that review like four times before it wasn't QUITE as snarky as I felt. I know that some people will lap up both of these books with a spoon, and more power and joy to them - seriously. I know they will make bells ring for someone. Just not me.

Sarah: DITTO on the angel-themed fiction. Somehow, pixies are easier to deal with.