Monday, November 12, 2012

Review: The Dangerous Days of Daniel X

Having never read (only listened to) anything by James Patterson, I had no idea what I was getting into when choosing this book. I really like the premise. Daniel X is an alien, his parents were killed by The Prayer when he was three years old. He escaped (because he can change shapes, he became a tick and got away) and has since been hunting all the aliens on the Earth's Most Wanted Alien list until he's ready to face  The Prayer again. Daniel has many other special abilities, like being able to project things from his mind and they become real, or being able to shape change into anything (even an elephant).
Book cover courtesy of amazon.co.uk


However, there were three major problems with the execution.

First of all, why is there a new chapter every two pages? This has never made sense to me. Isn't a chapter supposed to be a whole chunk of story? Sure the book is almost 300 pages, but with half pages because of the chapter endings and headings I imagine it's really only about 200-250. It seems entirely unnecessary to have a chapter break in the middle of a character conversation. I understand, this is James Patterson's style. He even talks about it, briefly, in Time magazine, but it doesn't explain it, and it doesn't necessarily mean he uses it effectively. 

*Warning, if you want to read this book, the following two paragraphs might spoil it*

Second, it's one thing to kill a character in a YA novel, it's entirely another to have the main character shrink in size (i.e., a tick), enter a villain, and explode out of him from the inside. Seriously, this happened twice, once in the first 10 pages. I was thinking I could recommend this to Grade 6 and up (11+), but I really wonder if I would feel comfortable doing so. Yes, the violence is generally done in a joking manner, and is usually directed towards aliens who are dripping in some sort of slime, but it seems unnecessary and overdone.

Third, if I can predict, in detail, what will happen to a character and am right about it, then you need to work on your plotting. Daniel meets a girl, of course she's the alien he's hunting. It was so transparent to me I almost skipped the intervening chapters (there were probably 30 of them) until he figured it out. Instead I got several more chapters of the lead character, who is supposed to be a genius, completely missing out on obvious details. Also, plot holes abound, such as when Daniel talks about having a crush on his friend that he projected from his imagination.

Bottom line, a good premise that was somewhat disappointing.  I think the best term I could use to describe my feelings for this book is that it is decidedly meh. It could be better, it could be worse, it's just right there in the middle.

Library Thing Review:
Daniel X is just your typical teenager, he has friends, he goes to school, he gets in arguments with his parents, and he gets annoyed by his little sister, except that these people are all physical manifestations that he creates with his mind. When he was just three years old, his parents were killed by alien outlaw The Prayer, and ever since, Daniel has been tracking down each alien on the Earth's Most Wanted Alien list they left behind. Ergent Seth is #6 on the list, but with his plans to rule the world, with a hint of child labor, he might be more than Daniel X is capable of handling.
James Patterson, the much beloved author of the Adult Fiction series Alex Cross, makes his second foray into teen fiction with the Daniel X series. True to style, he keeps the tone light and quippy, with Daniel laughing off the danger he faces, and his imaginary best friends providing assorted comedic relief. While the premise is promising, the execution seems to lack. The plotting is fairly transparent, the character of Daniel X has no real depth, and the conclusion needed a bit more suspense to be effective. Overall, students 12+ might not notice the gaping plot holes, would definitely laugh at the teenage humor, and should enjoy the temporary diversion Dangerous Days of Daniel X provides.

A professor once told me that I should read the first in the series and then move on, so that's what I'll do with this series, even if the subsequent books generally reviewed better than the debut.

 This week, I'm reading Call it Courage, by Armstrong Sperry. It's fairly short, which leaves lots of time to finish up A Feast for Crows (page 660 this morning!).

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