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Jan 15

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Alan Tucker’s A Measure of Disorder

First off, an apology to Tucker.  It’s been a long time, relatively speaking, since I read this book, and the review was delayed not because it didn’t merit a prompter one but because I’ve been busy seven days a week in the lab.  The blog has suffered in other ways, too.

There is an old adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” and this book is exactly the reason why.  There are a couple of covers for A Measure of Disorder.  The one I show here is the one I first encountered, and actually the one I like better.  The girl looks like any typical American teenager.  The tower looks interesting; it could really exist somewhere in the Carpathian Mountains.  It ‘s not a bad cover, but it hardly screams out, “Unusual fantasy!” and could be any ordinary tale of a summer vacation to Europe.  As such, it belies the story inside.  The book deserves a cover like one of these:

hed2 new-prisoner-of-azkaban-cover Scions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something with fire and enraged elemental spirits and dragon lairs and explosions of lightning and sprawling cities of magic.  It was Twitter traffic that led me read A Measure of Disorder, and the cover had little if anything to do with it.  No, it’s not about a European vacation.  It is a fantasy of broad scale that takes an unsuspecting class of eighth-graders on a biology field trip and transports them to another world.  The other-world  trope is hardly unique; I’ve used it myself.  But what soon follows is something different.  It reminds me of what Bob MclClane asks Quaid in Total Recall, or at least the 1990 version: “What is it that is exactly the same about every single vacation you have ever taken?”  The answer: “You are.”  These students take a trip to a strange and exotic land, and very soon end up being nothing the same.  This new world begins transforming them into the various beings who live there, for a purpose of her own.

A Measure of DisorderExcept for the protagonist Jenni Kershaw, that is, who stubbornly persists in remaining her same old self.  Well, it turns out that there is more in store for her.  Something special.

The adventure begins promptly in chapter one and never lets up.  From raids by creatures who think the kids look like a tasty treat, to a river full of angry water elementals, to an enemy determined to steal death from our world to destroy that one.  They daily face fear and courage, trust and betrayal, faith and doubt, life and death.  As I read it, I thought, “Wow!  This story pulls no punches!”  It was written for kids to read, but I wondered if maybe there might be some moments that are a little too much for some.  There is no Disney sugarcoating here.  Instead, it’s a return to some of that classic darkness to be found in The Wizard of Oz and Grimm’s Fairy Tales.  Refreshing.  Kids, in general, aren’t the milquetoasts we sometimes think they are.  The kids in the story certainly aren’t.

An interesting twist is how Tucker interweaves the magic of that world with the technology of this one.  I won’t say much about that as to not give anything away, but there are more uses for an MP3 player than you ever imagined.  Another angle is the use of magic as technology and how that technology could be as fragile as our own.

There is so much I would like to say, but am afraid to as it might deprive the reader of the opportunity to pick those things out for himself.  The identities of the creatures of that land, the nature of the change the humans are undergoing, and how magic and technology interact.  It is a fantasy with a twist, a grand adventure, and a coming-of-age story all rolled up into one.

My reading usually happens on the bus, in 10- or 15-minute segments.  Just too busy most of the time.  But every now and then I come to a place where I’ll be at the computer in the office and can’t help but pull out my Kindle because the bus had the poor taste to arrive on campus at some climactic moment.  This was one of those books.  Especially when they had to come back to Earth, where Jenni has a gigantic decision to make.  Just wait until you get there.

Folks, there are a lot of self-published books out there that are every bit as good as the traditionally published books, and I don’t necessarily mean my own.  But there are lot that are better.  This is one of them.

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://www.duanevore.com/alan-tuckers-measure-disorder/

1 comment

  1. Alan Tucker

    Duane, I am touched and humbled by this review. Thank you. As I’m sure you well know, we writers tend to be a reclusive lot, spending hours and hours at the keyboard, and sometimes wondering if our efforts are really worthwhile. It’s things like this, someone taking the time and effort to express their thoughts about your work, that make us realize that all the time we spend is not wasted. So, again I say, “Thank you,” for your time spent reading the story as well as for your truly kind words.

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