Thursday, July 26, 2012

Maximum Ride (Books)

I have, literally, hundreds of books. For years now I've kept a log of them on a file organized by author's last name and, counting just now, I reached 100 before passing the letter D. This counts omnibuses, which can contain anywhere from 2 to 3 books and of which I have many, as a single book.

So, saying that, I've read a lot crap.

For every 10 books I read these days 5 are crap, 4 are good, and only 1 manages to stand as a pure, heavenly light in my mind as one of the most fantastic books I have ever read.

Perhaps one of the first was Maximum Ride, by James Patterson.

Those hardly look capable of flight.
It was first published in April of 2005 so, doing math, I was 127 years old.

Then, after doing math correctly, I realized I was 17 to 18 (leave me alone, the caffeine hasn't kicked in yet.)

I'm a shallow person who is drawn in by pretty colors, and Maximum Ride's black and shiny blue was like a moth and a flame (I beat my head against the bookshelf several times before I remembered I had arms and was a human.) I was way into angels back during my older teen years and the wings on the cover drew me in instantly, as well as the subtitle "The Angel Experiment." This was back when Barnes and Noble only had a single bookcase labeled New for Teens. Now there is New Paranormal for Teens, New Adventure for Teens, etc etc.

I was grabbed and pulled in instantly. I love the survival aspect, the strong sibling teamwork, and especially the wings. Too many angel stories are just anti-heroes with decorative wings. In Maximum Ride, the characters take flight at any given moment.

One of the things I enjoyed the most was the first-person narrative. A lot of books with a first-person narrative are dry (especially all the Paranormal Romance for YA these days), and could easily be switched to third person and there would hardly be a difference. Maximum Ride uses the first-person narrative to its fullest extent. This isn't just a story in first-person, this is Max (the main character) telling the story with her own voice, wit, frustration, comments. This story, more than anything else, is what gave Crystal Ball from my own story, Dusted, her own unique voice.

Maximum Ride was originally meant to be a trilogy. Once I finished the first one I eagerly awaited the second, Maximum Ride: School's Out Forever, almost squealing when I saw it had been released (this was before I religiously tracked release dates, now almost nothing gets by me). The second read as excitingly as the first but, like all things, there was an entropy of the story.

I think it was when the dog started to talk.

Now, don't get me wrong, the second book was pretty good, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, but talking animals should generally be restricted to stories where all the animals can talk. Having a single talking animal is knocking a story down a couple of pegs, and it's like having that one annoying-voiced character that grates on your nerves that is in an otherwise dark and serious story (this is especially true in anime). Like, how would people feel about Samwise Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings was a talking Golden Retriever?

He's still just as whiny

Then the third one came out, Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports. Overly long title much? I read through it, mostly because I wanted to see how it ended, instead I'm treated to one long book of me asking myself "whisky tango foxtrot?" Basically, it boils down to "Adults are ruining the planet and kids are our future!" If I wanted to hear that I would watch Captain Planet, at least I would be prepared for the cheese.

You should see the diamond toilet paper!
Of course, like movies and videogames, if fans are throwing enough money at you, you're going to squeeze more story out because, hey, just a few more sequels and you can afford a brand new toilet! That, and now that you're popular, you can throw around what you think and people will buy into it, right?

So, Maximum Ride: The Final Warning was released, and I nearly threw the book across the room. I could go on and on about global warming, but this isn't a political blog. Though perhaps what bothered me much more was that the characters came out into the world, suddenly their secrecy is gone, and their survival is then handed off to a group of greenies.

After that came Maximum Ride: Waterwings oops, continuity in naming is for wussies, so they decided to name it Max. When characters with wings known for flying around are suddenly thrown in a water and submarine-based book, you know they've pretty much Jumped the Shark.

It was like my best friend had suddenly decided to stick gum in my hair. I was already pretty scared off by The Final Warning, but Max made me downright depressed to see where the next book would go. However, surprisingly, Maximum Ride: The Sky is Falling (oh, that's right, they're still trying to be kewl, because single syllable titles are kewl, right?) Fang, was much better. Though I did start with a big breath of air for an epic-sized groan when I first cracked open the book, which I immediately released upon the start with "Starving children in Africa." Yes, there are starving children in Africa, but if I want to read about starving children in Africa, I will pick up a book about starving children in Africa. I don't want it to be surreptitiously inserted into a series about modern-fantasy action and adventure. It doesn't last long though and, soon after, the book sweeps you back up into the high-flying adventure where Maximum Ride belongs (although the phrase "getting all up in my grill" still causes me to fidget.) Around that time I was hearing that Maximum Ride was two trilogies, and that it was supposed to end there. It clearly didn't, and I was left with another "whiskey tango foxtrot" moment.

After that comes Maximum Ride: I Honestly Don't Know the Original Title for This One Angel and, finally, they're going to release the final final book here in the next two weeks, entitled Nevermore.

I'm sort of filled with dread and excited to see the end of the series, but honestly, it ended with Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports. After that the characters have just been puttering around. Everything was even wrapped up neatly with no plot lines dangling. One of the biggest mysteries, a voice in Max's head, was explained. However, with book 4, the story suddenly went "No, wait, that person wasn't the voice, there's another one! How mysterious!" If that isn't trying to squeeze more story out, I don't know what is.

Yes, I've trashed it a lot, but it's like how you don't want to see a good person make bad choices, and you might criticize them for it. Maximum Ride is a beloved story to me, it just reads like James Patterson had a brain aneurysm halfway through book 2 and started slamming his face on the keyboard to produce the rest of the series.

In a nutshell though? If you want a good, fast read with lots of fun, humor, action, and a good first-person voice, read the first 3 books. Read the trilogy. It was the way it was supposed to be, wrap up, and end with some of its dignity intact.

However, should you find yourself still craving what happens next, and you're still attached to Max and her gang, at least do me the favor of skipping book 4. Or find it in a thrift store somewhere. I picked up a copy for a friend for $1.00, because I knew she loved Maximum Ride as much as I did, and she didn't have that one yet, and that was as much as I was willing to pay for Maximum Ride Meets Al Gore. You can pass right by it and the story is still 100% intact from book 3 to book 5.

“Fang: 'Man, You weigh a freaking ton! What have you been eating, rocks?'
Max: 'Why, is your head missing some?”

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