Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Book Review: Daniel X: Watch the Skies

Daniel X: Watch the Skies (2009)
James Patterson

When I was a teenager I encountered John Christopher's Tripod Trilogy. I don't remember it being called that at the time, but maybe it was. The years may have exalted it somewhat in my memory, but I recall an engaging series of books with pretty good characters and an interesting plot. The tripods were elevated three-legged overland conveyances belonging to aliens who had invaded earth, prompting a group of resourceful teenagers to try to find a way to destroy them. I haven't thought about these books in a long while, but I did just read my daughter's copy of Daniel X: Watch the Skies by the prolific James Patterson and coauthor Ned Rust. It suddenly occured to me that there is still a genre of teen fiction concerning extraterrestrial conflicts, which I'll call teens versus aliens.

Daniel X--he has no last name--is an alien, but, mind you, he's a good alien, and he's humanoid. His parents are dead, but he can still summon them up with his imagination, and he has a quartet of imaginary friends who help him out as well. In my opinion, there are too many imaginary characters in this book, but it makes it convenient for Daniel (and Patterson) to be able to have them come and go at will.

Daniel is an Alien Hunter who obtains his malevolent targets from The List of Alien Outlaws on Terra Firma. He spends this book in battle with Number 5, a catfish-like creature who directs morbid documentaries depicting humans being killed in entertaining ways for the bloodthirsty alien media in outer space. A few books more, and Daniel should finally come up against Number 1, the alien who murdered his parents. Somehow we'll all just have to find a way to wait and bear the suspense.

James Patterson writes formulaic books for the teen market as well as for the adult thriller market. Despite the science fiction trappings of the series, it's really constructed as a clunky earthbound adventure. Most of his chapters are just two or three pages and accessible to even the shortest attention spans. As you might guess, I don't think very highly of the book, but I suspect James Patterson is giving his readers what they want, something he seems to be very good at.

For interested young adult readers, I'd still recommend The Tripod Trilogy.


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