Let me start with some personal backstory. Several years back I started writing a story that has since evolved into one of a 21-year-old who discovers he's the son of an Earthling mother and an alien father. Okay, I could get into how these aliens, called Myrans, are actually humans whose ancestors were abducted by true space aliens who bioengineered them to improve their capabilities as slaves, tried to make weapons out of them in a war, and wiped themselves out, and his father himself was also born of an Earth woman, but since he was born and raised on another planet, carries some alien DNA, and has superhuman abilities, it's faster to just call him an alien. His heritage grants him super strength, telekinesis, empathatic telepathy (meaning he can read emotions, but not minds), an aging process that will slow down drastically around 27, and a number of other minor powers like the ability to ease pain and induce sleep in others. With the help and support of his best friend, also an Earthling-Myran hybrid, his Earthling girlfriend who knows his secret, and a triad of elemental beasts, he has to come to terms with these powers and use them to stop an insane full-blooded Myran from reviving the weapon the true aliens annhialated themselves with.
I thought it would be a good idea to check out some other media with any connection to my story, to see what others did with the ideas, cliches to avoid, and some other thing to take into mind. For example, when I first started writing it I was probably the only person on Earth who didn't think Masters of the Universe was gay, and as I got older I realized there were unintentional homosexual overtones between the two male characters. While trying to amend that that the "Very Beast Friends" episode of Real Ghostbusters gave me some idea of what to avoid. The empathetic telephathy bit piqued my interest in the Pip and Flinx books, which is also where I nicked the term from. And the only reason I ever touched Twilight was to get an idea of how not to handle his relationship with his girlfriend. Yeah, I think I'm in the green on that one.
Browsing the DS aisle at Best Buy, I stumbled upon the Daniel X video game which looked absolutely retarded. For cheese sake, it touts a DSi exclusive feature where you can photograph friends and family members and the game will tell you if they're an alien or not. But some details from the back of the box interested me. Daniel's an alien with telekinesis and heightened strength. Somehow I got the impression his mother was a human. Daniel was even blonde like my guy. Some other things didn't apply, but I thought the book it touted on the box cover as being based on would be worth checking out for the aforementioned reason, and in doing so I got another lesson in what not to do with my own story.
Daniel's powers are so awesome they're boring. He's a genius. He's super strong. He's telekinetic. He can shapeshift. He can shapeshift other things. He can read and control minds (and as Protoclown said, once you have the ability to control people's minds you become completely and irrevocably lame). He has super speed. He has lightning reflexes. He has some clairvoyance. I imagine he has regenerative abilities. He's probably got many more he'll pull out of his ass ala Superman down the road. But his "greatest power" and the one touted on the back of the book is that he can create, literally pull anything he wants out of thin air, from inanimate objects to human beings. So, he's pretty much Ben Tennyson crossed with Tetsuo with a touch of God, and you know, with all the annoying pop culture references that pepper the book I half expected Daniel to have a holographic watch from space or grow a tentacle arm to fight his foes with.
Sorry to go off topic here, but I have to ask: what the chuffing 'ell was going on in that movie's ending? Was somebody trying to be weird for the sake of being weird, or was something lost in translation from Japanese to English, or manga to film? Aside from the occasional what-the-dilly-oh moment and the fact it was hard to tell who anyone was because everyone looked the same, I actually reasonably enjoyed most of Akira, and some moments were awesome in their incoherency, like when the three psychic kids disguise themselves as a toy bear, rabbit, and car and harass Tetsuo in the hospital. But then Tetsuo pops the containment unit open and finds out, HAHAHA, Akira's dead and it was just his entrails in jars in there, and everything starts going down the toilet. Okay, I could hazard a guess as to what was going on with the blob, that Tetsuo lost control of his powers and started evolving uncontrollably. But then Akira reappears, and that one scientist guy shouts "It's the beginning of the universe!" for some inexplicable reason before his lab implodes, and was it just me or did Kaneda appear to get pulled into the void, then thrown back out, then sucked back in, then thrown back out again? And yes, you are Tetsuo, good for you.
Um, right, where was I?
Oh yeah, The Dangerous Days of Daniel X. If you haven't guessed from the title of this article, Daniel X is a terrible book. Oh, right, I forgot, it's a kid's book, let me rephrase that. Daniel X is a terrible kid's book.
Dangerous Days of Daniel X was written by James Patterson, an author whose name is everywhere in book stores yet I'd somehow never heard of before, with cowriter Michael Ledgewidge. Since Patterson wants his name in larger font and doesn't like to inform the rest of the world how much work his cowriters do, and the other two Daniel X books have different cowriters, I'm just going to assume Ledgewidge was a yes-man and blame everything on Patterson. He normally writes for adults, and this was one of if not his first attempt at writing for children. Mr. Patterson failed to realize that writing for children does not mean you should write like one, and Daniel X is the most juvenile book I've ever read.
Written in the first person from Daniel's perspective, the book opens with a disclaimer where Daniel tells us how the world "really is," that aliens are everywhere, living among us disguised as humans, many of them are really nasty, and if you're noticing any similarities to Men in Black, rest assured you're not the only one. He goes on to list a handful of aliens inhabiting the planet, including "some very nasty sluglike thingies with jowls like water balloons about to burst all over much of Japan and China, as well as New York City and Vancouver." He actually says "thingies." Unless you're writing sarcastic comedy or the dialogue of a child or fool, the word "thingies" does not belong in a book, especially not when the person saying it is supposed to be a genius. He then asks that if this stuff makes us uneasy to please put the book down and go do something else. I'd suggest you put the book down and go do something else because Dangerous Days of Daniel X is an insultingly stupid pile of rancid shit, but I wouldn't have known that until I'd actually read the book, would I?
The actual story starts with Daniel as a three year old making scale models of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World out of Play-Doh, then starts playing with a tick he feels necessary to refer to by its Latin name, just to show us how smart he is. Suddenly The
Bug from Men In Black Prayer barges in and guns down his parents, and Daniel vows to avenge them. Let's forget how cliche this is; am I really expected to believe a giant praying mantis that's supposed to be the most dangerous alien on Earth would use the insult "pukemeister"? And threaten to flame-broil Daniel, Burger King style? I swear, he actually says that. Daniel then describes some of the alien battles he's had growing up, including an alien that ate and digested him. He won't tell us how he got out of that one, leaving us to assume he regnerated himself after the alien shat him out.
Later on Daniel has a fight with two thugs on the football field with rocket launchers that somehow go unnoticed by the rest of the student body. When he finally knocks out the thugs he uses his mind control powers to brainwash them and says "I pronounce you... ELEPHANT TURDS!" and the two thugs drop on the ground and make like, well, elephant turds. Cute how Daniel talks like an adult when he's three and even goes out of his way to point it out to us, but when he's fifteen he starts talking like a six-year-old. I guess Alparians mentally reverse-age.
What else do we learn about Daniel, besides having powers that are the stuff of some kid's fantasy world, and being immature? Well, he has no last name, he's just Daniel, Daniel X. He adores humans and wants to protect them. He also likes Sno-Cones and elephants. Because elephants actually come from his home planet, and are his people's gift to Earth. He hates drugs and Opus 24/24s, the kind of gun The Prayer used to kill his parents... and that's it. That's the extent of his character.
After Daniel's parents were killed by The Prayer, he takes up his father's role as an alien hunter. With the aid of a laptop containing the List of Alien Outlaws to track down the most dangerous ones, he secretly travels the planet, protecting it from the scum of the universe, and the Men in Black comparisons return like a misfired volleyball to the face. He starts at the bottom and works his way up, with The Prayer at #1. He hears rumors that #6 on the list, named Ergent Seth, a shape-shifting alien who currently works in Hollywood and is said to be responsible for most every bad movie ever made, is plotting to wipe out all life on earth and repopulate the planet with his own kind. So Daniel decides to jump ahead on the list, and heads to California.
By the way, as if the blonde psychic alien protagonist bit wasn't enough, my guy's Earthling-Myran hybrid friend is named Seth. Seriously. If Daniel was six years older and his eyes were emerald green instead of turquoise, I'd sue Patterson for raiding my sketch pads.
Why does Daniel fight to protect the humans? One reason he hunts aliens is to avenge his parents, because that's oh-so original, but why does he care about the humans? He "adores" them as he puts it, but what does that mean? Does he think humans are worth protecting? Or is it the same way humans adore butterflies and lightning bugs, because they're a novelty to us? Had his mother been an human, that could be made into a good reason - a human gave him life, so wants to give the humans life. Superman has a love for humans because was raised by two, though both his parents were aliens. But no, both of Daniel's parents were aliens, he was raised by them for three years and then left to raise himself after they were killed, and Daniel doesn't even like directly interacting with humans. I'm not saying he shouldn't care about the humans, but it'd be nice if he had some reason beyond "he's the good guy, he just does."
From the time I first read the DS game box, I questioned that power of creation thing. I knew it was going to be a source of some great deus ex machinas and be of arbitrary strength, its capabilities determined by what the story requires of it. I was right. And couldn't it be argued that everyone has the power to create? Anyone can create life, whether they're conceiving a human baby or planting a flower seed. And as an artist, it mildly offended me that the power to create was being touted as a power you had to be superhuman to possess. But I thought I'd give the book a chance to make a distinction, or at least consider that idea. I'll tell you how that turned out later.
Daniel frequently uses his power of creation to conjure up his dead family and four friends named Joe-Joe, Dana, and I forget the other two's names and can't be buggered to look them up. He actually develops a crush on Dana, who then gets jealous when Daniel develops a crush on Phoebe Cook, a human girl who turns out to be Seth in disguise, but nevermind that. Wow, it's like A Boy and His Tank all over again, just without the LAN orgies and coprophagia! We actually find out these four friends are people Daniel knew when he was a baby, and are also dead. So, is Daniel conjuring up bodies for these people's souls to briefly inhabit? Or are they just glorified sock puppets, based on people Daniel knew, but still dictated by what Daniel wants them to do? Who knows, we just have Daniel telling us they're fake. What does that mean? How does Daniel know they're fake? He just does, now stop asking questions.
His grandmother tells him his powers were tested before he and his parents went to Earth, and the results said his powers were even greater than both his parents put together. How did they test him? Why is he more powerful than his parents combined, other than because the author said so? In my own story, a hybrid Earthling-Myran is actually much more powerful than a full-blood Myran, one who hasn't had an Earthling in their bloodline since the apocalypse on their planet, but I give a reason for this. Only a few hundred Myrans survived the catastrophy, and were isolated from the Earthlings for two-thousand years. As a result full-blood Myrans are a bit inbred. They weren't actively marrying their cousins or anything, they were just left with a shallow gene pool and their powers deteriorated over the years. The fresh genetic material the Earth parent brings to a hybrid rejuvenates those powers, in the same way mutt dogs are actually smarter and healtier than purebreds. Would this actually happen? Who knows, but it's more acceptable than "they just are", right?
Using his Phoebe Cook disguise, Ergent Seth gets his claws on Daniel and "unplugs," or disables his powers. How does he do this? How does Daniel arbitrarily get his powers back when he lands on his home planet? What's stopping Seth from unplugging his powers again in their final showdown? Oh, speaking of, despite being an alleged genius, Daniel can't even remember the events of the Iliad correctly. He compares his calling Seth out to a one-on-one battle to when Achilles called Hector out for a one-on-one battle, with him as Achilles and Seth as Hector. Because Achilles was the one at the disadvantage because he hadn't been dipped in the River of Styx and wasn't nearly invincible or anything.
Patterson Daniel also forgot the outcome of that battle was decided by the Olympian gods, and Athena interfering with the battle. Maybe he only saw the Brad Pitt movie, which may even have been the work of Seth OH SNAP.
Daniel is always on the move and is renting houses and apartments across the globe. He also frequently cooks high-brow meals like roast leg of lamb, and is also making enough for himself and his conjured up family. Where's he getting the money for this stuff? Nobody's paying him to exterminate aliens (by the way, who wrote the List of Alien Outlaws?), and he doesn't seem to have another job. Does he steal it? Does he conjure up a fake credit card or cash to buy it, an act comparable to forgery? And I'm pretty sure Daniel's creations don't last forever, so wouldn't it eventually vanish from the cash registers? If he's forging money that eventually vanishes couldn't the store then accuse the cashier of stealing that money, sue or fire them, and maybe even drive them to suicide? If he's using a fake credit card, how are these businesses going to get their money from the bank that either doesn't exist or doesn't have this card on record? Or is Daniel charging this stuff to some poor sap whose credit card he's copying? But I guess ruining the lives of hard working humans trying to scrape out a living are trivial matters compared to purging the earth of aliens. One day, after a hard day of alien hunting in the sewers of Oregon... or was it Ontario? Some place starting with an O... Daniel stops to wonder if he'll ever meet a good alien. Then he looks in the mirror and realizes he does know a good alien; himself! Daniel is an asshole.
The point I'm grinding against the pavement until it's filed down to a disc is that Daniel X demands too much suspension of disbelief, and this is coming from a fan of Phoenix Wright, a series of courtroom games where you at one point cross examine a parrot. Not just for accepting all the inconsistencies and questions about Daniel himself, but for overlooking the plotholes that crater the book like an old artillery range and other stupidity. A couple of times Daniel uses his mind control to make animals do things they're physically incapable of, outside a cartoon anyway. I'm sorry, but you're not going to use mind control to make a tick do handstands or a field of cattle stand on their hind legs and play cheerleader. They don't have the kind of anatomy, and you can't use mind control to change that any more than use it to make a human fly. And on the subject of anatomy, I realize Seth is a shape-shifting horse-headed alien and is built differently from a human and all, but I'm pretty sure you still couldn't get through his skull and into his brain by going through the ear canal.
On his way to California Daniel is hitchhiking when a truck driver speeds by and throws a can of beer out the window at him. Daniel telekinetically puts the beer back in the can, then takes the can and goes running down the highway at 150 miles an hour to throw it back in the driver's face. The driver turns out to be a goon sent by Seth to dissuade Daniel from continuing his mission, but if it wasn't, wouldn't doing that completely give him away? Later while looking for Phoebe he forgets he's on a secret mission again, and goes super-speeding through the halls of his school and telekinetically lifting lockers and even the fucking vice-principal, then running out the front door while leaving them floating. Why does he even do that? Does he think she's under one of them?
After Daniel defeats Seth he gathers up all the enslaved earth children (including the real Phoebe Cook, oh ho ho!) and makes Seth's now leaderless men take them home. The book skips over the actual return home and how these children returned to their lives after being enslaved by aliens, possibly for years. What about things like post-traumatic stress disorder? And the fact they know about the aliens that are on earth? Wouldn't their parents be asking where they've been? I guess Daniel used his mind control powers to wipe everyone's memories of the events (hooray for mental rape!), although given how much this book rips off Men in Black I wouldn't be surprised if he used his creation power to conjure up a Neuralizer and used that instead.
Speaking of, Daniel X has an irritating habit of throwing pop culture references around with Family Guy's "We mentioned 300! Now LAUGH, BITCHES" mentality, stopping just short of a Weighted Companion Cube joke. Whether Daniel's "Googling" some names or telling us he has dreams in 1080pi HD quality or some aliens are telling the kids there's no iPods or Playstation 3s on the slave ship, they just scream of Patterson trying to convince us he's got his thumb on the pulse of modern culture, and I'm sure the eight-year-old boys the book is aimed at would agree. But as a 23-year-old female, I'm calling bullshit.
Allow me to go into three I found particularly aggravating. First, in Chapters 16 and 17, Daniel's spawns his parents and sister, Pork Chop. That actually confused me because she was never mentioned before and we're not told her real name until much later in the book, so I couldn't figure out if Daniel spawned her or just didn't mention her before. A short while later I guessed his mother might have been pregnant with her when The Prayer attacked, and turns out that's what did happen. Anyway, Daniel talks with his dead parents, and his sister goes to watch the Simpsons. When he's done with them and is about to disspiate them, his sister says:
"We can't leave now! There's still five minutes of my show left. I've never seen this episode before. I want to see what happens to Sideshow Bob. Mom!"
Who cares what happens to Sideshow Bob? He winds up back in prison, the end! And is Sideshow Bob really the person to be concerned about in an episode he shows up in? I admit I haven't seen an episode of The Simpsons since that one where Lisa's cats kept getting killed and there was that episode with the dam Bob was actually a good guy in (but he went back to prison anyway) so they could have changed this, but Sideshow Bob's sole mission in life after framing Krusty is to get out of prison and kill Bart, and maybe get whacked in the head with a rake handle or two. Patterson was probably aware The Simpsons had a character named Sideshow Bob but didn't know squat about the actual character, but thought he was a talented enough writer he could sneak this in and nobody would notice. You lose, good day sir.
The next one only mildly annoyed me at first, but a couple hours later it had fermented into frothing anger. In Chapter 49, Daniel says:
Then they started playing their music, which was a sophisticated form of torture in itself. The List of Alien Outlaws never said these freaks were fanatics of early eighties bands. We're talking Journey, Air Supply, Styx. And some group I'd never heard of before called Yes that should have been called No. In my humble opinion anyway.
The eardrum-walloping volume wouldn't have been so bad if these intergalactic thugs didn't have to sing along like this was a karaoke van, banging their mallet-shaped heads back and forth and playing air guitar, air drums, air cymbals.
I don't know anything about those first three bands, but the Yes "joke" pissed me off. Now, I don't really care one way or the other about Yes. I am a huge fan of Roger Dean, who did a lot of album art for them, and I do like Yes' spiritual successor, Asia, but that has little if anything to do with it. The problem is that it's the kind of joke an eight-year-old would make, thinking it made them sound witty even though they'd never actually heard a Yes song, when in fact it just makes them sound like a tosser.
And I get the feeling Patterson himself never heard a Yes song either, just about the band and thought kids would find a joke like that funny. Okay, I haven't heard all of Yes' stuff. According to Amazon they have 531 songs (granted, a lot of those are probably rereleases) and I only own two of their albums; the 35th Anniversary Yes Ultimate Collection, which I'd get bored with every time I tried listening to it, and Drama, which I haven't even taken the seal off of. But what I have heard is very mellow, ethereal stuff, ambient you might say. It's not anything I can imagine a slimey horse-headed alien even listening to, much less headbanging and playing the air guitar to, unless their species has very, for lack of a better word, interesting taste in music. Hell, I can't imagine any humans headbanging to Yes.
And for what it's worth, Yes isn't even an early 80's band, they were formed in 1968 and were at their most popular in the 70's. And according to Wikipedia, Air Supply is a soft rock duo where one guy plays the acoustic guitar and the other guy sings. Yeah, that too sounds like something aliens would air drum to.
This raises an interesting question; why did Patterson choose to pick on these bands? Why not bands like Nickelback, Creed, and Korn? Bands that humans and grimey horse-headed aliens would headbang to and suck? Probably because the kids who make up this book's target audience are actually familiar with those bands, might even like them, and Patterson wanted to avoid offending them, though as I'll get to soon enough, he didn't mind offending everyone else.
Chapter 59. Daniel's been shot in the gut, and he fake pleads to Ergent Seth to distract him while he spawns his imaginary friends to follow Seth out and spy for him. Daniel says:
"I should have listened to you," I moaned, crying. Shia LaBeouf couldn't have done a better acting job, not even with Steven Spielberg directing.
No shit, Daniel. I think everyone except Shia LaBeouf agrees that Shia LaBeouf is a terrible actor.
A good book, and good anything else for that matter, has to stand the test of time. All these shallow pop culture references ultimately do is doom the book to be obsolete in a few years because it has little else to make itself unique or even memorable. They won't win you any points with the kids of tomorrow, Mr. Patterson, because pop culture is always changing and all these references will be horribly out of date in ten years. And the kids of today will be grown up and hopefully realize how beneath them this book is. What are you going to do then, release an updated version? Hell, the book is less than two years old and some of the references are already losing value. Who still uses an iPod instead of an iPhone? Besides myself, anyway.
There's actually one atypically decent moment in the third quarter of the book. Seth kidnaps Daniel and takes him back to the capital city of his home planet, Alpar Nok, which Seth has demolished. Seth tells Daniel there is no good and evil, it's just the strong versus the weak. That may have been the most substantial thing said in the entire book, but given the competition that's not saying much. And if you're going to reuse the same bad guy mentality of a 25-year-old anime whose plot only served to string together a bunch of martial arts battles and muscley guys making each other explode by poking each other hard enough, take it further or it doesn't count.
Daniel suddenly regains use of his disabled powers and escapes. He runs into two Alparian children who then lead him to a hidden underground garden that has gone unscathed by Seth's attack. There he meets an elephant he knew as an infant and some extended family members, and learns about his family, friends, past, and species. Enjoy this bit while it lasts, folks, because afterwards it reverts to its original childish mentality, with Daniel getting Seth to fight by calling him "dumb-dumb" and spawning a bunch of stormtroopers to bluff him into a one-on-one smackdown. At that point, I wouldn't have been too phased if Daniel and Seth's final climactic battle was just the two of them slapping each other like a couple of school girls, or reenacting that one Muppet Show sketch where Avery Schreiber and Sweetums battle each other with insults, only instead of witty and humorous insults they just call each other "doody-head" and "butt breath".
But nevermind all my complaints, Dangerous Days of Daniel X is a kid's book and wasn't meant for anyone over the age of 12. That brings us to one of the most irritating thought-terminating cliches ever, right up there with "It's just an opinion! You need to look up what an opinion is!" and "It's not bad art, it's a style!" - "It's not for youuuu!"
What the people who use that cliche don't seem to realize is when they say it, they are in effect calling every book, movie, game, song, cartoon, and everything else ever made good, because all things are made for somebody. LEGO Star Wars was made for kids who like Star Wars, and LEGOs, and especially Star Wars LEGOs, but the concept of a video game confounds them. Spongebob Squarepants was made for people who can't tell the difference between being funny and just being noisy. Daniel X was written for really young boys who think Michael Bay's Transformers is the coolest thing ever.
Children become adults sooner or later (I hope), and good children's entertainment has to have something for them when they grow up. I admit that up until less than a year ago I wasn't much of a reader, but one book I always loved was The Phantom Tollbooth. It's about boy named Milo who thinks everything in life is pointless, but when a mysterious tollbooth shows up at his apartment he goes on an adventure through the mind, and along the way there's all kinds of puns and jokes and observations to get the gears in your head going. I recently reread that book, and aside from a couple of hiccups like when the Mathematician gives Milo the long equation and Milo answers "zero" that's bound to piss off anyone who knows PEMDAS (the answer is actually -47.something), I still think it's brilliant.
To your right is a great Young Reader book I recently discovered, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, brought to us by Discworld author Terry Pratchett. It was Pratchett's first Discworld aimed at younger readers, albeit teenagers instead of children though I'm sure the kiddies would be attracted by the anthropomorphic animals, and it's up there with the best of his adult-aimed Discworlds. It's intelligent in its writing, humor, and theme, it's emotional, and it actually gets scarier and more morbid than any of the adult Discworlds I've read so far (as far as Eric as of writing this). Pratchett doesn't condescend the reader just because there's a good chance they're a youngster. I'm sure he knew many adults would also be reading, but he also believes kids can handle this stuff. And it won him a Carnegie, his first major award.
By the way, have you ever read Flying Omelette's RAU Gallery? Or Crawl's Review Site? If you haven't you really should. (And what the hell is wrong with you?)
And Ultraverse Prime (Plug)? That was a great story about a superpowered teenager. Yes, Rogue Prime was embarrassing, but that made the payoff with Final Prime all the sweeter. You could even say the overall story was an analogy of a boy's life; First Prime was a little kid, Rogue a wild and confused teenager searching for his identity, and Final was a mature adult. Yes, all that happened in less than a year and Kevin was always 13, but he had to grow up fast to fill Prime's boots. Another thing about Prime is that while he's immensely powerful and a few times was even called the most powerful Ultra on earth, he had a very unique weakness aside from the time limit of being Prime and the need to breathe. Not kyrptonite, not the color yellow, not graphite bars charged with negative ions, but that he was literally just a kid inside. Kevin was often thrust into situations he didn't have the mental maturity to handle, including the power and burden of Prime itself. A kid might look at Prime and think it would be awesome to be Kevin, but for adults this made Kevin a living, human character.
The message I get from Phantom Tollbooth is that the world is what you make of it, both in what you do in life and how you view it, but you still need rhyme and reason or else chaos ensues. Amazing Maurice is about being a thinking creature versus being hiveminded. The most memorable theme Prime goes into is the power of secrets, how they can make you feel completely alone even when you're in a room full of people, and how painful it is to try to tell a friend your deepest secret only to find they didn't want to listen. I got two morals from Daniel X, though somehow I doubt it was meant to even have one. The first is that only humans and human-like aliens are good and all others are Saturday-morning-cartoon-villain evil abominations that need to be purged from the planet, even if they were here before humans. So, on top of being aggressively juvenile and condescending, it's also racist.
The other one? Remember what I said before about what Daniel's creation power says to artists and everyone else? Well, while writing this article, I discovered a set of eleven Discussion Questions in the back of the book. The only one with any depth to it is the one asking if you think Daniel creating his four imaginary friends is his way of avoiding making real friends, but somehow I get the feeling Patterson himself doesn't have a stand on that. The other ten are completely vapid bullshit like "Daniel turns into a tick and an elephant to defeat Seth. What animals would you to turn into if you could?" and their only purpose seems to be to try to trick kids and dimwitted adults into thinking the book is deeper than it really is. And it's pretty hilarious that none of them refer to Seth saying there is no good and evil, just the strong and the weak. But number three references something I didn't take any notice to when I first read it, but really irked me when I thought about it:
Daniel wonders if some very talented people here on earth might be aliens too: Remi Boucher, Tiger Woods, Bono, and Sanjaya Malakar. In what areas do each of these people excel? What other famous person would you add to this list because his or her talent seems better than any other human?
I'll leave you to make your own Tiger Woods sex scandal joke, because anything I'd write here would be too obvious to be funny. And it took me a minute to remember Sanjaya Malakar was that American Idol contestant everyone hated, except the people who actually cared enough about American Idol to vote. But the real concern here is that Daniel thinks these people are aliens because they're "talented", and the question wants you to think up some highly talented people that might also be aliens. Because only aliens can be talented. Maybe a little kid would read that and think "Hey, I've got this one talent! Maybe I'm an alien! NEAT-O!" but the message it's sending to everyone else is that if you have any talent, skill, or ability, you're not human. Fuck, this book just gets more and more offensive the deeper I dig into it.
I don't intend to ever have kids, but let's say I did have some. Why would I want them to read this? Why would I want them to read something that insults their intelligence and their species? And not something like Phantom Tollbooth or Amazing Maurice, books they could actually learn something from? Unless it's for the same reason I read it, I mean. The knee-jerk part of me wants to say children are stupid, but the rational side of me realizes it's really not their fault. It's being fed shit like this and Teletubbies and LEGO video games that's the problem. If adults are going to put out children's entertainment with the idea that children will like anything and think anything is funny, and if parents think this condescending drivel is suitable for their kids, then it's no wonder kids these days are idiots.
I've probably devoted more than enough of my time to this book. It's 220 pages, plus another fifty of sneak peeks and other add-on crap in the back, but if you cut out all the blank space where there's only a few sentences on a page and the 90+ "Chapter XX"s that take up the top third of each new chapter page it would probably fit on 100. I blew through it in about a day, and it actually took me longer to write this review than read the actual book. This article could have been even longer. I was originally going to wait until I'd gone through the graphic novel so I could include more appropriate pictures, but chucked that idea out when I found the graphic novel, despite Amazon lumping all the reviews for both together, isn't an adaptation of this, but a completely new story. Then I thought about reviewing both in one go, but I think we can all agree the text novel gave me more than enough to complain about.
So just as how watching Edward gawk at Bella in the classroom, sneak into her room to watch her sleep, even stalk her, and that "I MIGHT HURT YOU" "I'M NOT AFRAID OF YOU!" "YOU SHOULD BE!" "BUT I'M NOT" exchange gave me comfort in my own human-superhuman relationship subplot, Daniel X has given me confidence in my own story about a super-strong psychic alien. I can't help but wonder how this story would have turned out had it been written by somebody besides James Patterson, a man who once said he wanted to be "the thrillingest thriller writer of all time." I feel like the story had a couple good ideas that Patterson probably stumbled into on accident, and in the hands of a more competent writer who wasn't afraid to delve deeper into the inner workings of the story, knew children aren't inherently stupid, and cared about the message they were sending to the reader, it might have actually been decent. Perhaps I should strive to one day be that individual.