09/03/2006

The Theft of the Purple Plug

I wanted to like this book, I really did. Steve Flashman has done a lot of work amongst youth in the UK, and this was apparently his first foray into fiction for children. The blurb on the back said that it was a Christian allegory, so I was expecting a more modern and fast-paced version of something like the Narnia series.

Alas, I was disappointed. The plot resembles the Narnia books inasmuch as Tom, the hero, is magically transported to another world, where he has to help the inhabitants solve a big problem. At the end is an example of love and sacrifice, which is supposed to be the Christian allegory part.

That's where the resemblance ends. There's almost no character development. There's a lot of plot, but much of it is told in conversation or author's comment rather than being shown. Tom learns a lot but we only know that because of what he says or thinks - there's nothing convincing about it. The creatures he meet have bizarre names that might perhaps appeal to children of about eight or nine, reared on fast-moving and silly cartoons of the Scooby-Doo variety, but they're not remotely plausible. A far cry from the fauns and giants of Narnia!

Then Tom's whole role seems rather far-fetched. He joins in the quest with a will, but most of the time seems rather superfluous. I didn't feel at all emotionally involved at any point, and while technically the writing wasn't bad, it wasn't good either. It felt rushed, as if it could have done with a lot of editing. A pity, because there was some quite good potential in the plot.

The end of the story is so rapid that the entire thing seems rather pointless. I gather there's a sequel, which perhaps would tie up some of the loose ends, but I believe books should be complete in themselves. I haven't the slightest desire to get hold of the sequel, anyway.

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