Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Going Bovine

Some books aren't for everyone.  These are the books that certain people often like best.  Going Bovine by Libba Bray has the potential to be that book.

Ok that’s all I got, enjoy!

Fine, I’ll tell you a little more.

Libba Bray works very hard in this novel to relate to her audience and write from the perspective of a teenage boy.  In my humble opinion, she does a pretty good job.  I find this even more impressive after watching this interview of her and realizing that she is someone that her main character, Cameron, would probably laugh at politely in order to find a quick escape before revealing just how creeped out he is becoming.

The basic premise is that Cameron, a sixteen year old male epitomizing the phrase “youth is wasted on the young”somehow catches mad cow disease.  This allows the author to use his subsequent insanity as a vessel to create a modern day retelling of Don Quixote.

Cameron has a series of wacky encounters with extreme examples of modern American ideals and pop culture.  As one would expect he also takes a personal journey and grows up a little.  One of the things I appreciated about the book is that he doesn’t grow up too much.  By the end he is still a teenager.  His perspective on life has been widened, he has made some decisions that are less selfish than where his character was at the beginning of the book, but he is FAR from being a true adult or having figured out life.

One of the most noticeable ways in which Bray tries to relate with her audience is through her language.  I feel like an old curmudgeon for pointing it out but you should know that if colorful language is something that turns you off to a book, you may want to steer clear.  For me it brought up a sort of twisted nostalgia as I realized that my friends and I really did swear this much when we’d be talking in the hallways back in high school.

At the end of the day, I liked this book.  I like the pop culture references, I like the humor and I like the heart that manages to sneak through every so now and then.  The book won the 2010 Printz Award so obviously it has struck a cord with someone besides me.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Lost Years of Merlin

In reviewing this book I feel I should be bluntly honest going in.  I like King Arthur stuff.  Not only do I like King Arthur stuff but I like the whole approach of taking King Arthur and placing him into a post-Roman dark age Britain rather than the more traditional Medieval setting.  I know that in recent years this has been done a LOT (Stephen Lawhead is one of the best), sometimes badly, but I like it anyway.  I remember watching the Clive Owen movie, wanting to shout at the screen (armor piercing!?), but at the same time loving the fact that I was watching King Arthur on a big screen!  

In a quick side note, so far the STARZ series Camelot looks to be one of the better interpretations I have seen, If you have Netflix you can watch it!

The Lost Years of Merlin by T.A. Barron markets the dark age Arthurian universe to young adults by keying in on the adolescence of Braver Sir Robin.  Remember him?

Ok fine so the book is actually about Merlin.  We first meet him as a six year old boy, washing up on the coast of Wales with no idea of his past or his identity.  He lives out the next few years with a woman found alongside him that claims to be his mother and calls him Emrys.  Around the age of twelve Emrys, growing increasingly curious about his origins, becomes involved in events that lead to a search for the truth of his mysterious past.

Like other recent Arthurian authors, Barron ties his story to Celtic tales from ancient Britain.  He does not throw in quite as many old names for people and places as some authors such as Lawhead, but includes enough that I believe it would pique the interest of any your reader to delve into these legends more deeply.  

At its heart this novel reads like an old fashioned coming of age story in a fanciful world.  In a time where so many writers in every medium go for “gritty realism” the charming nature of this story was quite refreshing.

As I stated in the beginning, I am a fan of King Arthur stuff so I admit that while I liked this book, it may not be for everyone.  I would recommend this for fans of fantasy and similar genres.  I also would not hesitate to use this book as an introduction to fantasy for readers that have not yet given it a try.

One last note, apparently there is a movie adaptation in the early stages of development.  I’ll be very interested to see how that progresses!