Saturday, January 28, 2006

A glittery red cover, Superheroes. Prophecy. Destiny: Michael Carroll, The Quantum Prophecy. London. Harper Collins, 2006.

Danny and Colin get sent home from school to write about "The Superhero I would want to be." This is a history assignment, not fantasy: ten years before, almost all of the world's superheroes disappeared in a cataclysmic battle against supervillainy.

But on the way home, Danny dashes into the street to rescue Colin's little sister from a truck, and his dawning super-powers are revealed.

From here we are on a path of kidnap and torture, supervillainy and excess. Danny's father turns out to be the supervillain facade, trapped in an impersonation at the moment his superpowers were undone. Colin turns out to be the child of two ex-heroes, and begins to develop his own powers of strength and hearing. As his powers ebb and fade however, many funny scenes ensue.

The plot is sort of irrelevant. It's the execution of the plot that grabbed my attention. At one point Colin and Danny are kidnapped. Colin escapes and from then on, our attention is drawn to Colin's intelligence. He evades his captors, succeeds in gaining help from another child who we never see again, makes use of a charitable service, persuades/co-erces a rather unpleasant character called Razor to assist him, acquiesces in a con-trick and generally makes the word work for him without ever being "rescued" by anyone. It's extremely well written and very plausible.

Similarly very well done is the entire denouement which rests on a prophecy made by Danny's real father which sees Danny, many years later leading an army in a destroyed world, his arm replaced with bionics. Everything that is happening is part of Joseph's attempt to prevent Danny from developing super-powers. In the end, it's Joseph's actions that bring to fruition the first part of the dream. To stop an explosion Danny is almost killed. Although he survives he loses his arm, and to show us he means business the author adds an extra twist: bitterly Danny curses his stupidity. Had he thought for a moment, he would have used his left hand.

All the way through I had the sharp sensation of reading a science fiction novel. Carroll thinks through implications for both character and world. The book is the opening salvo in a series and I'm looking forward to where this one goes. It's a while since I've read this kind of intelligence in a boy's adventure story. The last was Sandy Landsman's The Gadget Factor (1984).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agreed completely. Probably one of the more intelligent YA novels I've read in a long time.

8:48 PM  

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