Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Book Review: Archer's Goon

Diana Wynne Jones is probably my favorite author of all time because, even after reading over a dozen books by her* I still get thrown by her twists, her plots don't repeat, and the characters don't feel like copies of each other. Actually, I saw someone recently (think it was either Neil Gaiman or Robin McKinley) point out that date wise DWJ created the modern fantasy-with-British-humor genera (most of her stuff could also be called magical realism and she's gotta be one of the earlier writers for that too), which is pretty darn awesome and she certainly deserves all the attention she gets.

Archer's Goon by Diana Wynne Jones
Think my library must have one of the older copies since this was the only picture I could find of it. Not very interesting at all but the other covers I saw looked a bit strange.

Summary: The Goon was simply in the kitchen one day when Howard came home from school and had a very simple request, Archer wanted his 2000 words (written each month by Howard's dad). However, Howard's dad is tired of being yanked around and doesn't want to write these words any more, more so after even more people demand 2000 words to see what's so special about them. So Howard is tramping up and down town trying to learn more about this strange family that wants the 2000 words and how these words have trapped them in the town for 13 years.

The Good: That story, even though it felt very DWJ-ish in the progression and the kinds of characters, was still something fairly different that drew me in very fast. The characters are fairly understandable in how they deal with the various bits of plot (which makes the already funny situations just hilarious, DWJ makes magical realism work so well) while not being predictable. One or two of the plot twists really threw me (and I can usually see her plot twists coming by now, which isn't to say that they're obvious but since she's one of the few people who uses subplots well and places them early on I've gotten used to her style of writing).

The Bad: Bit of an odd ending, everything was wrapped up but it still seemed a bit abrupt. Just wanted a bit more closure and more time with the characters (especially since there's no reason for a sequel and it was only later that DWJ did more sequels even though a lot of her books are in the same 'verse) and even though I knew it was coming from the page count it still caught me off guard.

Found this book (even though I do intend to read all of DWJ work someday I haven't worked out the order to read them in yet) through the lovely people at [info]enchantedinkpot. Think I've mentioned the community before, it's not a review group but rather a group of people having discussions (not the most in-depth discussions on symbolism but rather nice, polite ones for the internet) about MG and YA books with lots of author interviews, certainly worth checking out!

*She's written probably between two dozen and three dozen books, closer to that higher number and it sounds like she's still working on one or two books right now despite being pretty old.