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Rerelease of 1993 book is OK for kids, unlikely to appeal to adult readers
on 28 April 2010
I'm one of the legion of adult readers who quite enjoyed "The Curious Incident of the dog in Night Time." I didn't catch up with his last book (A Spot of Bother), but thought I'd check out this latest one. The first thing potential readers should know about the book is despite the jacket copy declaring it a "hilarious adventure for all ages," the book is intended for children ages 8-12 or so. As a result, it's very short (adult readers should be able to read it comfortably in about 90 minutes), it's entirely "clean" (no curse words, etc.), and the characters are pretty thinly developed. As such, it's very well suited to its intended audience, but adult readers will probably find it too simple. The second thing potential readers should know about the book is that it's not new -- it's a retitled (and possibly revised) version of Haddon's 1993 book Gridzbi Spudvetch!, which was only published in the UK. So, if you take issue with popular authors repackaging their backlist, you've been warned.
The story itself concerns two young (maybe 10-11ish?) boys who stumble into an intergalactic adventure (that's not a spoiler, the cover image of a rocket ship kind of gives it away). When eavesdropping on their teachers, they are confused by a sudden transition to gibberish. Intrigued, they investigate further, and soon find themselves on the run from mysterious men in grey suits with lasers in their fingers! (The cover of the original UK version actually has a pretty cool comic-book style drawing of a scene involving one of those fingers.) Anyway, wacky adventures ensue, with some genuine peril thrown in. The story has some potentially interesting elements, especially the unemployed father of one of them. However, these are relegated to background roles, and, as with all classic children's lit, it's up to the kids to save the day.
Ultimately, I guess it might appeal to younger boy readers -- especially those with a taste for sci-fi stuff. It zips along at a rollicking pace, and there are enough unexpected twists to satisfy young readers with short attention spans. But there's no way I would recommend it to adults, unless you're reading it with/to your kid.