Book Review – Out of This World by Douglas E. Richards
Zachary & Jenna are having breakfast when suddenly there is a shimmering in the air and their parents disappear. What are two bright middle school kids to do but jump through after them? Well….
It’s certainly noble, but they are just kids, so they don’t even pack a lunch, a change of clothes, a flashlight, or even a toothbrush (which made me wonder how bright they really were).
They find themselves transported to another world and almost run over by a pair of transparent (literally) people who seemingly don’t welcome their presence and encourage them to leave through another shimmering portal. Thus, their adventure begins, jumping through portals in search of their parents, and finding themselves in different worlds populated with strange and often dangerous creatures.
Each encounter provides a simple, ethical lesson about cooperation, overcoming prejudice, positive thinking, intelligence, loyalty, caring, responsibility, or understanding. These aren’t quite ‘bang you over the head’ morality tales, but they are definitely geared toward younger readers. Still, they are endearing and entertaining to even older readers.
So far, so good. The characters are simple but believable, the settings are well constructed, the plot flows smoothly and logically… for about 80% of the way through.
If you don’t want a spoiler, stop reading this review now.
Still with me? You sure? I’m going to reveal the ending. I don’t often do this, but this one rather bugged me. If you don’t want to know, stop reading this.
Okay. You can’t say I didn’t warn you.
It’s all ‘magic.’ The beings that abducted their parents used ‘magic,’ and they don’t know how it (or much of anything else) works. That’s about all the explanation we get. It’s not quite as bad as saying it was all a dream, but it’s close. There is nothing about parallel worlds, multiple dimensions, or holes in space-time. All we get for an explanation for how all this happened is that it was ‘magic.’ Humans can do magic too, but the Earth has an anti-magic field around it that makes it almost impossible. Oh, and the San Andreas Fault is not really a geological fault line between continental plates; it’s a magically sensitive area that will rupture if the aliens prevent portals from opening between their world and ours.
After the first 80% of the book in which our two heroes act with bravery, reason out problems, and demonstrate a considerable amount of highly ethical behavior, to have this all trumped by ‘magic’ was something of a letdown and, at least to me, seemed to nullify the moral lessons in the book. Yes, learning, reasoning, and ethical behavior are fine, but magic is easier and so much more convenient. If you have magic, you don’t need all that other stuff. That’s how the aliens live, in any case, and humans can be just like them.
I found the first part of this book engaging and well done for a middle grade book. The ending, I felt, was something of a cop out.
This is, of course, my personal opinion, and I do tend to be a bit tough when it comes to fantasy novels.