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Alcatraz Versus The Evil Librarians (2007)

Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians (2007)

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3.86 of 5 Votes: 4
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0439925509 (ISBN13: 9780439925501)
scholastic press

About book Alcatraz Versus The Evil Librarians (2007)

We met Brandon Sanderson at a book reading/signing yesterday. Such fun! He seemed very nice and thoroughly excited about his creations. Younger than I'd expected and also very "normal" but fun. Most people were there for his other (adult fantasy) books and the majority of the Q&A revolved around his taking over the "Wheel of Time" series now that its original author has passed away. I think, for this reason, he was extremely excited when we showed up with a copy of "Alcatraz" for him to sign! :-p I told him I originally found a copy IN THE LIBRARY, which is, of course, a most amazing feat! ;-> We chatted for a few minutes. He said that the idea just sort of came to him after he got the opening sentence in his head. He wrote the book just on a whim, a very personal endeavor, kind of a break from his heavier, lengthier (i.e., 300,000 words!) fantasy novels. He just wrote without really having a preconceived notion of what would happen and he had a great time. He wasn't sure if anyone else would enjoy the zaniness but, tada!, it got published and did find some loyal fans. I told him that my husband and I appreciated the "deeper levels" of the philosophy and political aspects and he seemed to get really excited about that--perhaps he is more used to kids who haven't really studied Thomas Aquinas yet, haha. So, we had a good time and it was so nice to meet him.*************************************************************What a wacky, wise book! I really don't know how to describe it. It's not exactly the sort of book you cozy down with and I'm not sure how attached I really felt to the characters (One chapter begins with Alcatraz asking the reader, "Are you annoyed with me yet?" and he constantly asserts that he is not as heroic or as nice as the Free Kingdomers have made him out to be.)AND YET, I was completely absorbed in it! Despite all the goofy, fantastical sorts of things going on, Sanderson makes some philosophical and political forays (Plato's allegory of the cave is even mentioned!) Consider these quotes, "People go along with what they're told. Even intelligent people believe what they read and hear, assuming they're given no reason to question." I think the best way to give any sort of description of the book is to include a few quotes to give you a sense of the writing style--which could be maddeningly annoying to son:"Hushlanders [that's us], I'd like to take this opportunity to commend you for reading this book. I realize the difficulty you must have gone through to obtain it--after all, no Librarian is likekly to recommend it, considering the secrets it exposes about their kind. Actually, my experience has been that people generally don't recommend this kind of book at all. It is far too interesting. Perhpas you have had other kinds of books recommended to you. Perhaps, even, you have been given books by friends, parents or teachers, then told that these books are the type you 'have to read.' Those books are invariably described as 'important' -- which, in my experience, pretty much means that they're boring. (Words like 'meaningful' and 'thoughtful' are other good clues.)If there is a boy in these kinds of books, he will not go on an adventure to fight against Librarians, paper monsters, and one-eyed Dark Oculators. In fact, the lad will not go on an adventure or fight agaisnt anything at all. Instead, his dog will die. Or, in some cases, his mother will die. If it's a REALLY meaningful book, both his dog AND his mother will die. (Apparently most writers have things against dogs and mothers.)Neither my mother nor my dog dies in this book. I'm rather tired of those types of stories... To combat such silliness, I've written the volume you hold now--a solid, true account. Hopefully it will help anchor you in reality."There are so many little gems of hilarious-wiseness in the book; so many "Ah, well, that is because the Librarians rule the Hushlands and so things are this way." (Consider, for example, why we use PAPER for our big currency; what else would Librarians choose!?) But, finding them is the whole fun of the book so I'll keep quiet! :->

I was a little disappointed. I love the name of this book, and in my opinion, other Sanderson books aren't too far away from Young Adult, especially the Mistborn series. So I didn't expect as much pandering and condescension as there is here. Mostly, this felt to me like an awkward mash-up of the set-up of Harry Potter, the narration of Lemony Snickett, and the slightly annoying voice of Percy Jackson. And it felt to me like Sanderson was not comfortable in this vein, and trying too hard, especially with the humor, which sometimes worked but too often just shouted out: Look at me! I'm supposed to be funny! Thinking on it, there isn't much humor in Elantris, or Mistborn, or Warbreaker. And the humorous sections of his parts of The Wheel of Time, namely the Mat sections, also tend to be the clumsiest.With Sanderson, I always expect a cool magical system, and on this score, we get MagSysLite, but it's still pretty cool. First, we have the new silly technology, which is somewhere between magic and technology, and is based on silicon. That's what makes it silly. So there's lots of interesting magical glass, including glass lenses that do interesting things provided the person has the ability to activate them. What I liked here is that Sanderson, for the first time that I am aware of, explores the distinction between magic and technology in his worlds. With his strict rules and definitions, his "magic" tends to veer towards alternative technology, and loses some of its magical aspect. The second magical system has to do with the Smedry "talents". These are a ton of fun and I thought they were the best thing in the book. The Smedry family inherit talents of lesser or greater power. For example, Quentin Smedry has the ability to say things that are incomprehensible, while Sing Smedry has the talent of stumbling and falling. Alcatraz's grandfather has the more powerful ability to show up late for things. And Alcatraz himself has been blessed with the ability to break things. These sound very silly at first, and are good for a laugh. But Sanderson thinks these sorts of things through, and all of these abilities become useful, and useful in ways that are also fun.I've seen much criticism of Alcatraz's digressions at the beginnings of chapters. These didn't bother me. Sanderson is no Henry Fielding, and this book doesn't have the wit or humor of Tom Jones, but the literary asides hark back to that tradition, and I was fine with it. I even enjoyed his skewering of more traditional YA books, like Sounder, The Count of Monte Cristo, and To Kill a Mockingbird. But he should be careful. He begins one chapter, for example, with "Are you annoyed yet?" As an narrator, you should only ask that question if you are 100% sure that it is rhetorical.I thought this book was OK. If these were readily available, I would probably pick up the next one some time. And if I stumble on the next one, I think I will pick it up. But the book was not strong enough to make me go out of my way to find or order the second installment, and I think I am going to remove the series from my "to read" shelf. That doesn't mean I will avoid reading them, only that I'm not going to go out of my way to try to get them. I'm still a fan of Sanderson's, but I'd rather spend my time maybe getting the Stormlight Archives.

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Just to add to my review below...I just finished this today and I loved it. What a great book for middle-grade boys but also for any one who loves a really creative read. Honestly. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The narrator Alcatraz is just so off the wall. It reminded me a bit of Artemis Fowl, but even more so. Very unique. I can't wait for the sequal!This author was at the conference I attended also - he usually writes epic fantasies (He was chosen to finish Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series), but this is a departure for him into a middle grade novel. There was a bidding war for it and it was optioned by Dreamworks. Its about people who have wierd powers, like the power to break things, always arrive late and always wake up looking bad in the morning. Its great so far!

I'm so bummmed....I've been wanting to read this book since I first heard about it about a year ago. I really wanted to like it because:1. it's got a great title2. I've met the author and think he's delightful and a nice guy to boot3. children's literature is due another winner4. did I mention I really like the title?5. the bits I'd read seemed good6. the concept held promise7. (I don't really have a seventh reason, but the number 6 seemed icky to end on. Seven has such strength and balance that I much prefer it.)So anyhow, at the beginning, I was smiling when reading. Alcatraz's style of narrative was amusing. The refrain of "I'm not a nice person" a nice twist. But, for me, it quickly wore thin, and I found myself doing a lot of eye-rolling. It's not that Sanderson is a bad writer. The style just wore thin rather quickly. The pace was rather frenetic, almost as if there were all these good, or clever ideas that he wanted to cram into the book and shoved them into the story plot. But still, every time I'd get annoyed, Sanderson would slip in an allusion that would really make me smile, some that only Monty Python fans, or philosophy students might get. Bravo!Having said all that, I didn't dislike the book. I've certainly read many far worse. I was just disappointed. I suppose that if I didn't hold Brandon (who is finishing the Wheel of Time series after the death of Robert Jordan) to such high standards and high hopes, I might have been more satisfied. It also doesn't help that I read the book during what was a contender for "worst day ever" award. (I kid you not: bad news, traffic violation, flat tire, no $$ in wallet at cash register, dead mobile phone, tension headache and run out of gas all within a half hour.) The jury is still out on if I'll read a sequel, though. Ask me again when my headache goes away.PS A friend just reminded me about a part of the book I, too, really liked. She said, " The part that has stuck with me, and that I laughed and laughed about was the part where Alcatraz was talking about the books that were required reading: they always involved the death of a dog, or the death of a mother, or in some the death of both. "

This is the first book in a young adult series by the great Brandon Sanderson. I read my first Sanderson book last year [[book:Mistborn: The Final Empire|68428] if you must know!] and I absolutely fell in love with it. Then I found out that Sanderson wrote a YA series, and I got this at our library for me and my 8YO son to read.Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians has many similarities to The Matrix. It is about a person who is just living his life not knowing that the life he is living has a secret that not many know about. This book details the first few days where Alcatraz's eyes are opened to the secrets of live. They are revealed to him by his grandfather days after his 13th birthday, where he receives an inheritance present from his estranged father, that will help Alcatraz become one of the most powerful beings in the world hidden from the rest of the world.The book is slightly confusing at the outset as you try to get used to Sanderson's writing style. I am afraid that my 8YO might get a little confused (since it is written on 4.5 grade level, and he is at a 3.1 reading level). Once you catch on to the sidebars that Alcatraz details at the beginning of each chapter, then you start to get into the flow of the the book. I was prepared to put the book down in the first half of reading it, but as I progressed through the last half of the book, the style seemed to flow better and I was enjoying the book immensely. I hope that my son will attempt to read it (so that I have an excuse to get the rest of the series).
—Michael Ramm

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