Thursday, June 23, 2005

Redwall Agonistes

As I have written several times before, our son Jacob is a voracious reader. For the past couple of months he has been working his way through the Redwall series. Put briefly, the Redwall books focus on talking animals and their adventures in a quasi-Medievalesque setting. The books themselves are fine, but Brian Jacques has written 17 of them since the first was published in 1986, and things are getting a wee bit repetitive.

Things tend to go like this: The good beasts of Redwall/Salamadastron/The Forest have a feast. Joe Bad Guy has this horde of bad guys, and they are marching on Redwall/Salamandastron/The Forest to pillage and maim. Trish wonders why the good guys haven't figured out that if they would only give up feasting, they would have a lot fewer invasions to deal with.

Eventually, the Good Guys see the Bad Guy army, and a siege develops. The Bad Guys outnumber the good guys, usually by a few zillion. Treachery and double crossing abound amongst the bad guys.

Good guys die. Creatures will be called by name solely to get offed a sentence later. For reasons usually unrelated to the battle, a handful of creatures journey across the forest and get involved.

Creatures eat. What they eat is always described in considerable detail. Always. And is always some weird vegetarian thingy. I don't know if they are made up foods or its stuff they really eat in the UK.

Someone encounters the shrews and gets them to help out. Always. Baby creatures appear and take a prominent part in the action. They tend to speak with cutesy voices.

Eventually, the creastures on the journey encounter the siege or return with the object of their quest, which has something to do with ending the siege. In a final climactic battle, the vermin are driven off. If a badger is leading the good guys, then he tends to die while killing the bad guy leader. Badgers are just that way, it seems. A big feast is held, the end.

Like I said, its actually a pretty good series. And no doubt the repititions are no worse than other classic series, like the Hardy Boys, or even Harry Potter. But after 17 books, read almost in a row...oy.


Dave said...

I don't know (or perhaps remember) what your son has or hasn't read. I'm assuming he's already read everything by C.S. Lewis that's geared towards his age-group. Here are a few other non-Redwall suggestions:

* Terry Pratchett has written a number of books specifically for children/young adults. Look in particular for the Bromeliad Trilogy and the following Discworld novels: The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, and Unadulterated Cat. Pratchett is very funny, and your son should be able to graduate easily to the rest of the Discworld series (which, unlike most fantasy, doesn't contain much - if any - objectionable material).

* Douglas Adams and Isaac Asimov are also wonderful sci-fi authors for young adult readers. Their books, like Pratchett's, tend to be very tame when it comes to adult themes and offer more "action" than violence.

* If he hasn't read The Hobbit yet, he probably should, though I'd save the rest of Tolkien's work for much later (not because of content, but rather because he won't appreciate the writing).

* Piers Anthony's Xanth novels - well, at least the first 6-9 of them (see this list) - are also excellent books for young adults, but you must excercise caution in exposing your son to the author, because much of Anthony's other writing is highly inappropriate for children.

* And, of course, Harry Potter.

I can't think of anything else right now, but that list should get you away from the tedium of Redwall.

Jammer said...

Thanks for the ideas, Dave. We have done the Narnia books (I read them to him) as well as The Hobbit and of course, Harry Potter.

I'd never considered Asimov, but that might be a interesting idea, which also makes me wonder about the old Heinlein juveniles.

I'm really going to have to get out front of this, because his reading speed is truly amazing to me.

Mike said...

I got one of Pratchett's illustrated DiscWorld books from the library a year or two ago and encouraged Justin to read it (he was 9, I think) and he loved it. The normal books are a bit thick at times; he's probably ready for them now (at 11); they're just stuck in the queue behind the rest of the HhGttG, which he's 3/4 through.

anyways, I forget the name, but it's the one about the expedition over the side of the disc. Rincewind is in it; all the major characters make appearances except maybe the witches? Good stuff.

Dave said...

I'm pretty sure it's the first book ni the series, The Color of Magic. The first two or three aren't as well-written, so they only get better from there.