Sunday, June 29, 2014
Book Review: Max Quick 1: The Pocket and the Pendant by Mark Jeffrey
Max Quick 1: The Pocket and the Pendant by Mark Jeffrey
Max Quick doesn't exactly have it easy. He's an orphan, he lives in a home for boys run by a cruel man, he's bullied at the bus stop every day before school, and he doesn't even remember his own past. Nothing's really going his way. But when an old woman recognizes him in a bookstore-- one where he shouldn't even be because he's supposed to be at school, it starts him questioning, but then something else happens no one could have predicted.
Time stops. Max finds himself one of few people that area actually able to move around in this frozen time. His search for answers to why time has stopped and finding out who he is lead him somewhere he never could have expected, and he learns that the human race is in danger of being enslaved.
And only a strange little boy named Max Quick can stop it.
That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from markjeffrey.net
Max Quick is a pickpocket, a vagabond, an orphan, and a thief. Even so, nothing about him seems particularly special . . . until one day when time mysteriously stops. Suddenly, nearly everyone in the world is frozen in time—except for Max.
Now Max must journey across America to find the source of the Time-stop. Along the way, he meets others who aren't suspended in time, like Casey, a girl who's never been on her own until now. Together, as they search for the cause of this disaster, Max and his companions encounter ancient mysteries, magic books, and clues to the riddle of stopped time. But relentless and mysterious villains are hot on Max's heels and will do everything in their power to prevent Max from ending the Time-stop. And the closer Max gets to the answers, the more it seems that his own true identity is not what he once believed. Racing against a clock that no longer ticks, Max must embrace his past to save his future—and the world—from being altered forever.
Max Quick could be set just about any time from 1995 to 2005, or even to the now, and it would make sense. This makes it (forgive the pun) a relatively timeless book. In fact, about the only few elements that lock it down to the turn of the century are a few mentions of cell phones and email addresses. One particular character, Ian, is a bit of a computer nerd, but his computer knowledge really only manifests in the form of analogies, like uploading, software patches, and the like. As it is, The Pocket and the Pendant can easily be accessible and relatable to about any young reader these days. As someone in thier late 20's, I still found this very easy to connect with even though I'm outside the age bracket the book was intended for. This was a very solid book for at least my generation forward.
As far as middle grade and YA books are concerned, I'm actually not all that versed, so reviewing this is a little bit different for me. I can't hold this book to the same standards I hold Starla Huchton's or Scott Sigler's books. That said, I appreciated that The Pocket and the Pendant was fairly straightforward in its language. I listened to the podcast version, but I think I would have been better served by actually reading this one. That's not to say that the performance or quality of the recording were bad. Far from it. I think there was one spot where the wrong name was said, and some of the episodes were surprisingly long, but otherwise, the podcast alone was okay. I think if the episodes had been more aligned in length rather than having some be about 30 minutes and some being over an hour, I would have bene more okay with it. But the real reason I think I would have been better served reading it is just because of some of the new terms introduced in the world. Little things. All in all, not bad.
But there was one glaring issue that continually bugged me. Pauses in the action. Oh, my did we get a massive infodump about 2/3 into the book! Considering all the questions asked leading up to this, I shouldn't have been surprised at the huge Bond-style monologue (but not from the villain) explaining EVERYTHING up to this point. The infodump lasted two 40-or-so-minute episodes of the podcast! But here's the kicker-- I liked the information given, mostly because it was in the form of a story. I guess if you have to infodump (no one should ever have to, really, but I'm guilt of it sometimes, too) then I suppose this is the way to do it. Still, it was an infodump, so I'm torn on my feelings about it.
The other egregious pause was in around the 1/3 mark, when Ian, Casey, and Max first discover how to use the books. There's a long section that's nothing but describing the pictures on the pages of a book they're looking at. It's a pretty important plot point, I understand that, but it still felt... awkward. But that might just be because it was a podcast I was listening to. I'm not sure if that would feel more effective if I were actually reading the words. Honestly, such a thing would be best expressed in book form if the actual book I was reading had the illustrations themselves rather than descriptions of them.
I had a few moments when I guessed exactly what was going on, and I turned out to be right more often than not. That could just mean that Jeffrey was paving his own way well, or that I was just looking too far into things. Then again, I usually miss things like this, so for me to guess at something isn't really a good sign. I called a few key points, ones that seemed so obvious to me, but I don't know if the average 12-year-old (about where I peg this book as being aimed at) would pick up them like I did. It's been a long time since I was 12, and I can't relaly say whether or not 12-year-old Me would have guessed them.
I really did love how so many mythological and belief systems were woven together... but that was a big thing in that huge infodump. If there had to be an infodump, that's the kind of one that really draws me in. Honestly, it wasn't until I finished the first episode of the infodump that I realized I was smack in the middle of one. But think about it. This was TWO CHAPTERS of infodump. There had to be a better way to do that, and I want to smack myself for having liked it.
Would I Recommend This Book? Yeah, I'd say so. I'm not enthusiastically saying you have to go read it right now, but if you see it, or want to listen to the podcast, go for it! There's some good stuff here, some stuff that I will definitely remember, but this is one of those books that is only a few steps up from being a semi-predictable movie. But again, I'm speaking as a slightly jaded 29-year-old. I give it a 3.25 of 5 stars. I can't give it a 3.5 because of the info dumps, but I can't give it a 3.0 because I liked the info dumps. So 3.25 it is.
For more information on the author, visit markjeffrey.net