25 January 2006

1. Mossflower by Brian Jacques

I chose this book for a couple of reasons. First, I had seen many of the 7th graders reading the series. Second, I thought it fell into one of my favorite genres, the animals with intelligence and organized societies trying to deal with problems created by humans, and while this book has organized animal societies, there isn't a human in sight. Third, there are a bunch of books and I like to read complicated, convoluted, epic stories with deeply detailed worlds (West Wing, Middle Earth, Belgariad, Shannara, Forgotten Realms, and above all, Dragonlance).

Unfortunately, what I got was a pretty standard low fantasy setting and a pretty standard fantasy plot.

The setting: a small section of woods, with a road and a river. "Far to the west in the unknown lands" we have mountains, a swamp, and an ocean shore. In between are all sorts of bad guys.

The plot: Evil is threatening the land in the form of Tsarina, a bad wild cat who usurps her dad and imprisons her brother (the heir). As soon as she takes over she tries to dominate the rest of the kingdom, and she tries to rule with an iron paw. Enter the good guys, an overwhelmed fighter (Martin the Warrior Mouse, who teams up with a punning, don't-take-everything-so-seriously thief (Gonff), and the McGyver character, Dinny the mole. Of course they have to go on a quest to save the kingdom and the poor beaten, abused subjects. Of course, during the quest they nearly get killed in every chapter until they get separated and then they nearly get killed separately until they find each other again where they almost get killed until they make it to the end of their quest. Which it turns out is not exactly the end of the quest, but merely a change of direction for the quest. Fortunately they make a few allies along the way and are able to get back to the forest just as their friends are about to be overwhelmed by the bad guys.

Extremely standard stuff and that's why it took me over three weeks to read. I have started a few other books trying to excite myself into reading, and give me enough of a reading boner to finish Mossflower.

One cool thing, or a concept that strikes you as cool when you start until the literature deconstructer part of the brain takes over, is the fact that there are so many animals and they each have their specialty. For example, the squirrels are great archers and they love to sneak up on their prey (from the treetops of course) before they attack. Then the otters are great sailors and swimmers and in-water fighters. But then you start to think, hmm, is this supposed to be a metaphor for racism, or species-ism? I have since read on the internet that this is a common critique of the books. I found it to be one of the factors wearing me down.

If it wasn't for jury duty I wouldn't have finished this book until well into February.

Recommended? Not.

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