Friday, December 14, 2007

Abarat by Clive Barker (5/5 stars)

This is the first children's book I have ever read by Clive Barker. I know that he is much more well known for his works of horror. However, I was very impressed by this book.

I listened to this book on audio book. The audio book was very well done. I think the guy who read the audio book must be the same person who read Stephen King's Dark Tower series on audio book. At least they sound very similar since I keep getting flashbacks to when I listened to the Dark Tower; maybe it is just that Clive Barker and Stephen King have a somewhat similar writing style. The only bad thing about listening to this on audio book is that I missed out on all the neat color pictures. I have the paper version at home so I still got to see the pictures, just not while I was reading the book.

The tone of this book reminded me a lot of Alice in Wonderland and is, initially, a similar premise. Candy Quackenbush lives in Chickentown, MN and, during an assignment for school to write a paper on interesting things in Chickentown (a decidedly uninteresting town), runs into a mystery concerning a man who committed suicide in a hotel room. A strange nautical device is found in the dresser drawer of this hotel room. Candy finds herself obsessing about the symbols on the device. Candy is fed up with her boring life in Chickentown, her beaten down mother, and her abusive father. After a particularly bad scene in class at school, where Candy gets sent to the principals office, Candy decides to just leave school and go walking. She finds herself in a vast prairie outside of Chickentown. While there she runs into an 8 headed man, John Mischief, and ends up helping him to light the lighthouse in the prairie (which Candy thought was an abandoned building). Following some crazy events Candy finds herself swept off to Abarat and swept into a crazy adventure there.

This was a really great book. It is wildly imaginative and full of non-stop action. I loved the way Candy accepted her adventures with ease (since *anything* is better than Chickentown). I also loved the numerous quirky characters that Candy ran into along the way. Candy seems to have a knack for getting people's attention and getting drawn into trouble. There are tons of interesting good and neutral characters in this book. There are also some very interesting villains. The villians in this book are particularly special. There are numerous levels of evil, making you wonder who the *real* villain is. All of the villains have a lot of depth to them, you can see multiple sides to their character. This makes them seem somehow less ultimately evil but more scary and unpredictable.

The description in the book is wonderful. The plotline rolls along gracefully taking Candy from one adventure to the next. Even though many different characters are introduced and interact with Candy, none of it seems forced.

The only disappointment I had with this book was that I thought that the storyline with John Mischeif didn't get much closure; I am sure this storyline will be revisited in the next book. I am also curious as to what is happening back in Chickentown; does Candy's mother know she is missing?

This was a great book. I would read it to slightly older children though since at times it is very violent and it deals with issues of suicide and torture at points. Great book, I am excited to read the next one.

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