The Game of Sunken Places by M.T. Anderson
The Game of Sunken Places has at its core several relatively humdrum concepts: a board game that plays for real, a hidden kingdom, two friends (one timid, one outgoing), a race to save the (or a) world. This isn't so bad since so much fantasy works with the same basic materials. The question is whether the author transcends the familiar and here the answer tends to be no.
The story follows a pair of thirteen-year-old friends, Gregory and Brian, as they go up to Vermont to visit Uncle Max (not really related) and cousin Prudence. Tension is set from the start by a surprisingly dark intro piece set at Max's. Once the boys arrive, they become quickly embroiled in playing the game, or, as it's referred to by everyone, The Game, the board version of which they found in the old nursery. The boys must solve riddles; avoid near-fatal run-ins with their seemin... Read More
M.T. Anderson(1968- )
strong>Matthew Tobin (M.T.) Anderson grew up outside of Boston, Massachusetts. He was educated in English literature at Harvard University and Cambridge University, and went on to receive his MFA in Creative Writing from Syracuse University. Before becoming a writer, Anderson held several other jobs, some of which he has used as inspiration for his writing. He worked as a burger flipper, a department store cashier and a radio DJ. Anderson’s books for children and teens blend the genres of adventure, horror, science fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction. Learn more at M.T. Anderson’ website.
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Norumbegan Quartet — (2004-2012) Ages 9-12. Publisher: When Brian and Gregory receive an invitation to stay at a distant relative’s strange manse… well, they should know better than to go, since this is a middle-grade adventure novel. But they go anyway. Why not? Once there, they stumble upon The Game of Sunken Places, a board game that mirrors a greater game in which they have suddenly become players. Soon the boys are dealing with attitudinal trolls, warring kingdoms,and some very starchy britches. Luckily, they have wit, deadpan observation, and a keen sense of adventure on their side.
The Game of Sunken Places by M.T. Anderson
The Suburb Beyond the Stars by M.T. Anderson
As a reader, I find M.T. Anderson a bit all over the map. I tend to see his strongest work as aimed at the older crowd, while his children’s novels tend to leave me a bit cold. That was the case with The Game of Sunken Places, a children’s fantasy involving two boys playing a Game of high stakes involving trolls, ogres, etc. M.T. Anderson hadn’t done enough with the relatively “humdrum” concepts and his plotting and characters were a bit muddled. I’m sorry to say that I have the same reaction to his second book in the series, The Suburb Beyond the Stars.
The same two boys, Brian and Gregory, are at work designing the next version of the Game (thanks to Brian having won the last time in book one), but their work is interrupted by a murderous attack on Brian by a monster, and... Read More
The Empire of Gut and Bone by M.T. Anderson
The Empire of Gut and Bone is the third book of the Norumbegan Quartet by M.T. Anderson, coming after The Game of Sunken Places and its sequel The Suburb Beyond the Stars. Unfortunately, it has many of the same problems as those first two books, which led to my ranking them relatively poorly. Which is a shame, because there are some good ideas at the core of this series, such as this book’s setting, and Anderson has shown himself to be capable of simply great work in the Octavian Nothing books.
At the end of The Suburb Beyond the Stars, the two main characters, Brian and Gregory — along with the automaton troll named Kalgrash whom Brian has befriended and Gregory hates — had stepped through a portal to fi... Read More
Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation — (2006-2008) Young adult. Publisher: It sounds like a fairy tale. He is a boy dressed in silks and white wigs and given the finest of classical educations. Raised by a group of rational philosophers known only by numbers, the boy and his mother — a princess in exile from a faraway land — are the only persons in their household assigned names. As the boy’s regal mother, Cassiopeia, entertains the house scholars with her beauty and wit, young Octavian begins to question the purpose behind his guardians’ fanatical studies. Only after he dares to open a forbidden door does he learn the hideous nature of their experiments — and his own chilling role in them. Set against the disquiet of Revolutionary Boston, M. T. Anderson’s extraordinary novel takes place at a time when American Patriots rioted and battled to win liberty while African slaves were entreated to risk their lives for a freedom they would never claim. The first of two parts, this deeply provocative novel reimagines the past as an eerie place that has startling resonance for readers today.
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The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson
"I do not believe they ever meant unkindness."
So Octavian says of those to whom he was an experiment, to those who claimed he was chattel, to those who weighed his excrement daily and compared it to his intake.
It is perhaps this book's most frightening truth that he is correct.
Octavian and his mother were sold into slavery in the 1760s, in Boston, to The Novanglian College of Lucidity. These men were rationalists, and sought to discover — once all of the niceties are removed — whether the Negro was inferior to the European. Octavian was taught "the arts and knowledge of the physical world... the strictest instruction in ethics... kindness, filial duty, piety, obedience, and humility," Latin, Greek, the violin, and while learning these things, he was dressed in silk and lavished with luxuries.
Yet we immediately see the detached scientist in... Read More
Steampunk!: An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant (eds.)
Steampunk!: An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories is a new young adult collection edited by veteran anthologists Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant. Featuring twelve conventional short stories and two graphic entries, Steampunk! showcases a wide variety of ideas and styles that fall under the steampunk umbrella. The collection is entertaining and is lent extra freshness by the variety of settings explored by the authors: none of the stories are set in Victorian London.
The book begins with “Some Fortunate Future Day” by Cassandra Clare. This is a creepy little story about a rather warped young girl who desires love but knows very little about it. Th... Read More
Pals in Peril (Thrilling Tales) — (2005-2011) Ages 9-12. Publisher: What sort of madman would unleash an army of stilt-walking, laser-beaming, thoroughly angry whales upon the world? Who cares! All that matters is that his dastardly plan be foiled. Lucky for Lily Gefelty, her two best friends are the intrepid stars of their own middle-grade series novels: Jasper Dash (better know as the Boy Technonaut) and Katie Mulligan (beloved by millions as the heroine of the Horror Hollow series). It’s going to take all their smarts to stop this insane, inane plot from succeeding.
Feed — (2002) Young adult. Available for download at Audible.com. Publisher: Identity crises, consumerism, and star-crossed teenage love in a futuristic society where people connect to the Internet via feeds implanted in their brains. For Titus and his friends, it started out like any ordinary trip to the moon — a chance to party during spring break and play with some stupid low-grav at the Ricochet Lounge. But that was before the crazy hacker caused all their feeds to malfunction, sending them to the hospital to lie around with nothing inside their heads for days. And it was before Titus met Violet, a beautiful, brainy teenage girl who has decided to fight the feed and its omnipresent ability to categorize human thoughts and desires. Following in the footsteps of George Orwell, Anthony Burgess, and Kurt Vonnegut Jr., M. T. Anderson has created a not-so-brave new world — and a smart, savage satire that has captivated readers with its view of an imagined future that veers unnervingly close to the here and now.