Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

The Complete Alcatraz The Complete Alcatraz
by Brandon Sanderson

Supplied for review by Hachette New Zealand

Reviewed By: Jacqui Smith

I can pretty well guarantee three kinds of reaction to Alcatraz Smedry. There will be those who find him incredibly irritating to the point of throwing the book across the room; those who find him uproariously funny, and will be totally unable to put the book down; and those who find him alternately hilarious and infuriating. I was one of the latter. Some passages, even taken out of context, were so funny that they just had to be shared with the nearest person (generally my husband, since I do much of my reading in bed). And sometimes it got just plain annoying. The problem is that Alcatraz insists on frequent asides, at the beginning of almost every chapter and frequently throughout. While this is in keeping with the pseudo-autobiographical style the novels are written in, they do interrupt the narrative. Intentionally. Now, these asides are often humorous, and sometimes remarkably apt, but I can understand if some readers find the constant interjections intolerable.

Sanderson is writing in the persona of one Alcatraz Smedry, who a) wears glasses, b) is thirteen-years-old, c) has secret powers, and d) belongs to a social order which is independent of the rest of humanity, yet has been growing up among us. If this reminds anyone of Harry Potter then I suspect it’s intentional. Alcatraz Smedry is actually a Lord of the Free Kingdoms – who secretly share the Earth with those of us who live in the Hushlands, dominated and misled by multiple conspiracies of evil Librarians. But he’s been fostered somewhere in the USA. Several somewheres, in fact, as his Smedry talent for breaking anything and everything makes him somewhat difficult to live with. The four novels collected in The Complete Alcatraz follow the adventures of Alcatraz Smedry as he battles various factions of Librarians – usually for all the wrong reasons.

I suspect that the same sort of young people that enjoyed the Harry Potter novels would most likely enjoy (and benefit from as a sort of literary vaccine) the collected memoirs of Alcatraz Smedry – as will anyone with an appropriately warped sense of humour, especially those of the librarian persuasion.

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