Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Read: The Amber Amulet

Next time I decide marketing is all nonsense and doesn't have any real effect on a rational person, I just have to remember the last time I was tricked into entering a Dymocks bookstore. I won a free book on the internet, something I'd never heard of by someone I'd never heard of, but I can't turn down a free anything, let alone a book! All I had to do was wander in to my local branch and pick it up.

Of course, it's never that simple, because once you've gone to the effort of actually going all the way to the bookstore you might as well have a look around. And what's this, there's a new Bryce Courtenay (not that that is likely to be a problem again)? There's a 2 for 1 deal on young adult fiction? There's double bonus points on children's books this month if you buy three? Half an hour later, I reach the counter, feeling a little bit guilty but oh so good...

...you know how when you get to the checkout there's all those tasty kinder surprises and tic-tacs, in one last ditch attempt to get you to spend all your money on sweet nothings? This book was the literary equivalent, lurking on the counter with the bookmarks and the ludicrously overpriced notepads. A tiny little book with a little pricetag, a drop in the ocean, considering how much I've just spent... Just 80 pages or so of words and illustrations enclosed in a beautiful hardcover imitation pulp paperback sleeve, looking all mysterious and alluring and exciting.

Yes, I have been thoroughly, thoroughly sucked in by the marketing, but I don't care because I have a bag of tasty tasty books on the side seat, and even if this Amber Amulet things is a complete waste of time and money at least it's not going to waste very much of either. 
Rex Parker eat your heart out.

The suprising thing? It's not a waste of time at all. I read it in about quarter of an hour one night when I couldn't sleep, and it's a pretty good book. I've heard good things about Craig Silvey, the author of Jasper Jones (a book that's been on my list to read for a while but I am yet to acquire a copy of), and if this is an example of the way he writes books, you'd better put me down as a fan. This one shows a knack for portraying complicated issues through the eyes of children and filling his prose with little jokes only apparent if you're looking for them, and all without feeling forced, which is a tricky thing to do.

Page 23:
He decides it's prudent to first make sure. If you're going to save a citizen pre-emptively, you'd best be confident your heroism is both necessary and required. He rests the pad on Richie's back. His first monogram is a little messy on account of his nerves. He strips it loose and tries again. Not bad. He taps the pen on his chin. Succinct is best. He writes.

Apparently I'm not the only fan about, either. A short film was apparently released this year based on the book, and it must have been decent, since it won some awards; and while I wonder if a film could really portray the childish naivete and trust that is really what this book is all about, I thought that about The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, so what would I know? Filmakers really are clever people.

The novella (novelette?) is the story of the double-life of the Masked Avenger, super-hero and odd-jobs man, who fights suburban crime with the aid of his horde of gadgets, the power of crystals of his Power Belt, and Richie the Wonderbeagle; and his interactions with the citizens of his street. Sonia Martinez' illustrations make up the Masked Avenger's scrapbook/journal of his adventures, bring a lot all of their own to the story, and probably deserve a more equal billing with the efforts of the author, as they really make the book something a little bit special.

Favourite bit:
Adorning his wrist is the copper bracelet that his grandmother wore to soothe her arthritis, but he knows it is better used to amplify Empathy and Mercy. Pinned to his heart is his grandfather's bronze service medal, for Bravery and Valour. Two clear silicon discs secured in a wire frame rest on the bridge of his nose. They give his eyes Supersight, as well as protecting them against Debris, Hypnosis, and Poking.

I don't know what else I can really say, except that if you ever come to visit us at Parliament House, you should have a quick read while enjoying a cup of tea and I'm pretty sure that you won't feel like you're wasting your time.

Reading Progress:
Number of Books read: 12
Australian dividend: 4.045
Science Fiction dividend: 3.5
Fantasy dividend: 3.5
Biography dividend: 2.5
Literary dividend: 1
Mystery dividend: 1.5
Humour dividend: 1

Up next: Sci-Fi sequels

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