By Matthew Skelton
Warning: Mild spoilers ahead. Not that it should matter, this book sucks. Just so you know where I stand on this one right away.
My wife hates to go to the movies with me. Not that I go to a lot of movies. I find sitting through two hours of Hollywood drivel to be only slightly less annoying than 7 a.m. road work on a Saturday. Therefore I mostly stay away. But from time to time I get suckered in and I am forced to remind myself and my wife why bringing me to a theater is a bad idea.
I can usually keep my cool through Act One. The novelty of the theater and the hope that somehow this movie will be better than all the others tends to keep me behaved, but somewhere around the 25 minute mark I begin to squirm. It's usually around this time that I lean over to my wife and let her know exactly how the movie will end (I know, I'm worse than Hitler).
From there things get worse. I will start anticipating insipid dialog before the actors can act it. At first it's only a whisper to my right (or left, whichever side my wife is sitting), but it gradually gets loud enough for people sitting around me to hear. Luckily, I live in Taiwan where few, if any, movie-goers have the audacity to tell me to shut up. They're all too busy answering their cell phones to do that, anyway.
After an unnecessary bathroom break and a quick stroll around the lobby I'll usually meander back into the theater for the final act and, lo and behold, I was right about the end, much to my wife's chagrin and embarrassment. As the credits roll I'm usually heard yelling "Crap!" at the screen and on more than one occasion I've tried to rally my wife to ask for our money back.
I'm not proud of this behavior. I just have little patience for stupid. And, aside from Taiwanese television and British tabloid newspapers, Hollywood movies the most flagrantly vacuous examples of pop culture there are. Formulaic codswallop from start to finish. I simply don't understand why people still shell out their hard-earned cash for crap. And when it happens to me, I lose my shit.
Thankfully, I didn't buy Endymion Spring. Nor is it the sort of book I would ever normally pick up and read. I generally avoid young adult fiction. But my accessibility to good books fluctuates quite a bit and I often have to read stuff I would dream of reading if I had access to unlimited books (This is actually the argument that has me very seriously considering the purchase of a Kindle or E-Reader. I don't know how much longer I can manage these dry spells).
Endymion Spring is a Hollywood movie in print form. Mindless, predictable formulaic drivel. What makes it worse is that I can't lean over and pester my wife about its inanity. I'm stuck with it. I'm stuck in a movie theater watching a Jennifer Aniston rom-com all alone, and all the doors are locked.
Endymion Spring chronicles an annoying brother and sister tandem (Blake and Duck) who find what seems to be a magical book in one of the Oxford University Libraries. The parallel story involves Endymion Spring, apprentice to Johann Gutenberg and his discovery of the same book a half millennium prior. The story jumps from past to present, hinting at the involvement of Faust and revolving around a but of professors who seem to fetishize books, often to the point of creepiness.
Seems everyone wants this book, even though it is never explained what this book can or even might be capable of doing. For all it's supposed powers, the reader is only graced with a few silly riddles from within and not even the baddie at the end explains what, exactly she plans to DO with this book once she has possession of it. Does it entitle the owner to fame and fortune? Does it preclude the end of times? Does it cook a mean paella? I mean, would it have killed Skelton to give the reader an idea of the power of this most-magical-of-all books? He simply reiterates how supremely wonderful this book is and how it chooses who is allowed to read it and attacks those not deemed worthy.
Which then begs the question, if the book chooses its own readers and attacks all the others, it doesn't seem to need Blake's help does it? Seems like the book has things about covered, what with its ability to attack. It's got a bit of a leg up on all the other inanimate books in the library that can't defend themselves against vandals and theives. Furthermore, it seems to me if you aren't the chosen reader, you simply aren't cracking that spine no matter what you do. Hell, only Blake can read what's in the book, rending the book useless to everyone else, lest Blake decides to share which, being Harry Potter, he doesn't. But, naturally, the baddies never see it that way. They figure yelling at a kid will definitely get him to do their bidding, no further questions. A plan brilliant in its simplicity, no?
Anyway, Skelton sets up all his characters and you can pretty much map out the remainder of the book by page 50. Everyone knows exactly who the baddie is right off the bat. And of course Blake is an unlikely hero with an intelligent yet spunky sister named Duck (cause she wears a raincoat, get it?). Some of the sub-plots (the seemingly insurmountable martial problems of Blake and Duck's parents, the involvement of Jolyon and Psalamanzer) are wrapped up so quickly and sloppily I wonder whether Skelton even had a writing plan. There are no surprising reveals or dramatic turns. It's just so darned straight forward and cliche. It's so cliche that toward the end when the baddie is explaining their treachery to Blake. Rather than simply finishing the job, she actually says things like "Foolish boy," and "You didn't think you could outsmart me, did you?" Seriously. She actually says these things!
The worst part is that Skelton actually leaves an open ending suggesting that I might be interested in a sequel, should the first print run sell well. Of course, it had just enough Harry Potter-esque fantasy in it to have made the New York Times Bestseller List, meaning that if a sequel just might see the light of day. Which means there are alot of people out there that liked this book. Shudder.
I know, I know... whatever gets kids to read is fine, right? OK, sure I can buy that and I wouldn't chastise anyone for reading or even liking this book. But is it too much to ask for YA writers to stray away from the Rowling Paradigm for a while and try to write something new and interesting? Another one of these and I'm liable to lose my shit, Hollywood movie style.
And that won't be pretty.