Some twisted MG Contemporary Fantasy fun.
A hero with an incredible talent...for breaking things. A life-or-death mission...to rescue a bag of sand. A fearsome threat from a powerful secret network...the evil Librarians.
Alcatraz Smedry doesn't seem destined for anything but disaster. On his 13th birthday he receives a bag of sand, which is quickly stolen by the cult of evil Librarians plotting to take over the world. The sand will give the Librarians the edge they need to achieve world domination. Alcatraz must stop them!...by infiltrating the local library, armed with nothing but eyeglasses and a talent for klutziness.
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Source Note: The specific version I am reviewing here is no longer available. When they changed narrators for the second book, they went back and re-recorded this one. All links go to the new version.
Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarian by Brandon Sanderson, read by Charlie McWade / Length: 6 hrs 15 min
This is Book #1 of 5 in the fictional autobiography written by "Alcatraz Smedry."
My pre-blog review of this book: If you come to this book expecting what you have read in other Brandon Sanderson books, you may be disappointed. If you come expecting a very funny example of "lampshading," you'll should be quite satisfied. Lampshading is the act of shining a light on the customs and tropes of literature and media (think Galaxy Quest).
It is also a clear example of Metafiction: a literary device used self-consciously and systematically to draw attention to a work's status as an artifact. It poses questions about the relationship between fiction and reality, usually using irony and self-reflection.
Note: Although I am not tagging it with Diversity, since it is a very minor part of this book, one of his new cousins is Mokian (i.e. Polynesian).
Alcatraz: I usually have difficulty reading about characters who constantly run themselves down but in this case it is very skillfully done. There is a fine balance between all the things that Alcatraz is saying about himself, and what his actions say.
There is a zany cast of supporting characters: including a crazy(?) grandpa, 2 strange cousins, and a 13 year old girl who's a knight with a huge sword.
I am not going to comment on anything specific here, since the unfolding of this world is central to the story being told. Suffice it to say that this isn't Sanderson's typically extremely logical magic system/world, but that's the point. You never know what he's going to spring on you next.
The beginning eases you into the style and the story with a slightly more normal situation (orphan in foster care). I like that the foster care system isn't vilified. He has had a few somewhat bad experiences, but expresses mostly positive feelings about the "parents" he's had. It is only his case worker Ms. Fletcher who is awful.
The ending completely resolves the main plot points and sets them up for the next adventure.
HIGHLIGHTS / CAUTIONS:
- The typical fantasy beginning, with a twist
“I’d like to take this opportunity to point out something important. Should a strange old man of questionable sanity show up at your door suggesting that he is your grandfather and that you should accompany him upon some quest of mystical import, you should flatly refuse him. Don’t take his candy either.”
- The whole section where Alcatraz, Bastille, and Sing are stuck somewhere together and Al has an epiphany. / Also his pointing out that, no, you can't be anything you want. Some things just aren't possible no matter how badly you want them.
- Quentin's "gibberish" and the uses it is put to.
I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT: Ms. Fletcher's verbal & emotional abuse of Alcatraz. Although one is given, there is no excuse for that. / The explanation of the extra continents really didn't do it for me. And some of the other stuff was a bit of stretch.
Reminder: this is for the previous version with the original narrator.
Character voices differentiated = Yes / Opposite sex voices acceptable = barely. The foster mom's voice is my least favorite of all. The others are OK. / Accents = Good. I liked the mix of different British accents for the... (it's a spoiler) / Phrasing, Pacing & Pronunciation = Good. I only noticed 1 mispronunciation / Emoting = Good / Speed = Good. I listened on 1.25, my usual, and it was just a touch fast.
Talk to Me (pretty please)
- What is your favorite example of lampshading or metafiction?
- Do you prefer that an author stick to one type of thing, or do you not mind when they write lots of very different stuff?
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