Sunday, 17 January 2010
Review: Blue Light - Gary Paulsen
Published: 1998, Macmillan Children’s Books
Acquired: Myself - Ottakers, Yeovil
I frst read Blue Light (known as The Transall Saga in the US) shortly after the new millenium (I wasn’t aware of this fact until I opened the front cover to find a Pokemon sticker (circa 2001) blinking happily back at me) but recently cracked open the spine one more time, to see if it was as good as I remembered it to be. The short answer? Yes and no.
I have nothing but fond memories of this novel and the faded yellow pages are testament to the many happy afternoons I spent thumbing through it. It’s the only Gary Paulsen novel I’ve read but he’s a writer I’ve always wanted to read more of. I’m definitely going to look into reading more of his books for my YA Reading Challenge this year.
But I digress. Back to the story. Our protagonist, Mark, is a thirteen year old survival and wilderness enthusiast, who is hiking through the challenging Magruder Missile mountain range. Suddenly he’s struck by a beam of blue light, which takes him away from his comfortable teenage life and leaves him in the middle of a dense jungle, on what appears to be another planet.
However, instead of giving up, his survival instinct kicks in and Mark tries to live off the land, all the while avoiding the terrifying mutant animals that spend their days pursuing him. Eventually he stumbles across a camp, where (almost) human inhabitants called the Tsook have managed to make a life in this primitive environment. Although, the tribe are wary of Mark’s presence and things take a dark turn when he begins to fall for the cheif’s daughter, Megaan.
Blue Light is not the typical novel that I enjoy. Normally I’m enthralled by stories of tan lines, pretty boys and cocktails but it’s good to venture outside your comfort zone every now and then and this is a novel I’d definitely recommend to those looking for a break from the norm.
Paulsen’s alternate universe has been designed and researched to perfection and his prose is simply brilliant. Just take a look at the following quotation:
‘The jungle grew darker, more tangled and more overgrown. Vines hung snakelike from the trees all around him. Grotesque lizards with abnormally large heads darted in and out of the foliage And there was a new sound. In the tops of the now almost black trees, he could hear animals chattering. They made a clicking noise like stone hitting stone.’
Despite the alien landscape and mutant animals throughout the novel, Paulsen manages to give the story a sense of realism that helped to make it such a success. Blue Light is strong where many fantasy novels are weak. Sure, the lead characters may be midgets with webbed feet but that didn’t, for one moment, play on my mind and ruin the magic surrounding the novel.
In short, Blue Light is probably never going to be quite the novel I loved in my childhood; I’m older now and my tastes have changed but Gary Paulsen’s classic survival story will always have a warm place in my heart.