In the beginning there were nine of us.
Three are gone, dead.
There are six of us left.
They are hunting us, and they won’t stop until they’ve killed us all.
I am Number Four.
I know that I am next.
John Smith has been on the run all his life, alongside his guardian Henri. Every time “they” have come closer, John and Henri have had to drop everything, pack up and go and John has had to take on a new identity. Because John is no ordinary teenager; he is a native of Lorien, a planet similar to Earth which he had to escape when the planet was invaded then destroyed by Magadorians. Now they are after him and the other eight children that left Lorien with their guardians. After a quick exit from Florida, John and Henri end up in Paradise, Ohio, and after an encounter with lovely Sarah on his first day of school, John decides that this might be a good time to try to settle down and fit in into a place. After all, once cannot run for ever. But it soon becomes clear that things might be catching up with John and Henri after all.
I Am Number Four is a really enjoyable, pacy thriller. I am not into sci-fi usually, and definitely not into “alien stuff” but I was drawn it into the story from the start. Number Four is a really loveable, well-drawn character (I was a bit annoyed that I already knew that Alex Pettyfer was going to play him in the movie adaptation because that prevented me from creating my own picture of him though) and his relationship with Henri was one of the successes of the book. His dog Bernie Kosar, however, steals the show and turns out to be even greater towards the end of the story. Great dog characters bring a real edge to a story (remember Manchee from The Knife of Never Letting Go?)!
The story can be patchy at times and there are some clichés. I thought that John and Sarah’s relationship developed rather quickly for a start, and that Sam’s obsession with anything-alien was a bit too convenient. Also I thought that the fire at Mark’s felt out of place, fabricated solely so that John’s powers could be exposed, which resulted in an odd change of pace in the story. But there is still an energy to the story that really makes you reading more. I read somewhere someone that described it as “Smallville meets Heroes” and I think this is a fairly accurate description. You can really see why Spielberg has chosen to produce a movie adaptation, even before the book was released.
I’d like to think that there is an ecological warning to be taken from this book too, with the Magadorians being the most unecological book characters ever. But the mark they have left on their own planet and then Lorien brings a warning as well as a metaphor for what our lack of responsibility might result in. Maybe I am looking too much into it? I don’t know, I’d like to think I’m not the only one to have thought that!
The book is allegedly written by Pittacus Lore, who is a Loric Elder. This is a pseudonym (obviously!) and the book is actually a collaboration of two novelists, James Frey and Jobie Hughes (Frey is mostly known for having been exposed for fabricating great chunks of his “memoir” on drug addiction). I don’t think you can actually see any difference between the writings of the two authors.
Overall, this was a really enjoyable read, and one that I felt compelled to read on until its conclusion. I found myself quite fascinated by Lorien and what might have happened on the day that the children and their Cepans left the planet. Therefore I very much look forward to reading the second volume of the Lorien Legacies!
In the meantime, the movie will be out in February 2011.
(PS: as the photo shows, I was lucky enough to get a limited-edition proof of the book. So my thanks to Puffin; I love it!)