Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Greatly Belated Book Review(s): M. T. Anderson's Thrilling Tales

(AKA "Pals in Peril.")

Every once in a while, you find a children's book of exceptional quality. (Here's an older review of a comic-format book that I read some time back. I ought to figure out how to review the Robot City books, which I read a while ago, too...) M. T. Anderson's Thrilling Tales, of which I have read "The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen" and "Jasper Dash and the Flame-Pits of Delaware" are clearly qualified as exceptional.

I'll admit, children's books often have an easy time engaging me. I might be an adult who is generally regarded by those who know me as smarter than average (not boasting, just stating what others state), but I'll happily read or watch things aimed at any age group if it suits my tastes.

And these books have what is usually an easy way to interest me: Make things funny. They are very funny. Even better, it's hard to explain a lot of the funny bits without spoiling the plot.

The narration is extremely lemony, to the point of getting lost in talking about mostly irrelevant things that are happening rather than the plot. Amazingly, the books don't suffer for it.

However, the humor isn't what makes the books great, although it is the primary contributing factor to what makes them an enjoyable read.

No, what makes these books great is that they are perhaps the best metatextual commentary on the nature of fictional characters I have ever seen. And despite being about good and positive things, like friendship, courage, problem-solving, and heroism, the world the characters live in is one of the bleakest fictional worlds I've ever seen because of it. (Though like our own world, it also has its moments of wonder. Those're the good bits.)

Explaining why would be telling.

Also, Jasper Dash is one of the best characters ever. Why? Because he's an Edisonade character living in the modern world. And it is hilarious. (Also, while he's funny and silly, I also think he's a genuinely great guy.)

-Signing off.

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