Author: Mortimus Clay
Published: Finster Press (2009)
Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy
I won this book through Fantasy Book Critic after spying a rave review for the book on their blog. The cover grabbed me. The premise hooked me. The experience, however, was a tad underwhelming compared to how FBC reacted to it. It's a good story, but I just didn't consider it a great story.
Mortimus Clay is a cleverly fashioned nom de plume, complete with a blurb on the back cover by Charles Dickens from beyond the grave. That's the kind humor I like to see from a book such as this. The narrator, Mortimus, comes across as affable and conversational, as if you're sitting by the fire and listening to the old storyteller regale you with a fantastical tale.
The premise seems like something that should have been written already, which may be why there is that Dickensian feel. The hero of the story, Trevor Upjohn, is a ten-year-old boy living in a land called Superbia. He's one of many children living in what is a cross between a prison and a reeducation center for kids, as they've all been covertly abducted by bogeyman. If you've ever heard the stories of the monsters living in your closet, they're true in this story and have been stealing little kids for ages. The reeducation aspect stems from the fact that the children are taught that words like "home" and "parents" are filthy profanities that must never be spoken.
Trevor remembers his home and his parents though, through his dreams, and one day vocalizes this. He's quickly whisked off to be evaluated by the bogeyman's authorities and is deemed "Incorrigible"--a death sentence, basically, as nearly all children become food for the bogeymen. Trevor is snatched from the jaws of death when some familiar faces and some new ones come to his aide and take him to a secret land in Superbia, Olton, populated by escapees and others who strive to save all children and reunite them with their families.
If Lemony Snicket wrote The Matrix, you might end up with The Purloined Boy.
I really wanted to love this story, but came away only liking it. I may sound a bit pessimistic about the story, so let me assure you that it's not a bad story at all. It's downright good, in fact. I think for me it came down to timing. You know how it is with some books--some simply demand a certain mood while reading them. I thought I was eager to read this one, but I wasn't being sucked in. For a relatively diminutive novel, it took me nearly a week to finish.
The characters are believable given their circumstances and surroundings. The land of Superbia is given a very redolent texture, in each of the settings, from the Pantry, to the Sewage Works, to Olton. Even the pacing of the story was good, as the downtime was used to catch up on the history and what's to come. I guess the gripe I had was that for all the adventure and hijinks, I wasn't surprised by much of it, and even found it predictable in spots.
Bah, I'm just being a downer. And I think the story promises to entertain any other reader far more than it did me. Heck, I'll probably sit down to reread it once it's time for the sequel to be released sometime this year. If you enjoyed the stories of J.K. Rowling, Philip Pullman, Lemony Snicket, or C.S. Lewis, I have a feeling you'll find something to appreciate from Mortimus Clay.