Let’s be honest, the only reason I even watched I Am Number Four was because Dianna Agron was in it. She and Alex Pettyfer did an okay job in a mostly-unremarkable, produced-by- Michael Bay movie about an alien in hiding on Earth who grows some Mary Sue superpowers and fucks the alien bad guys’ shit up in the end.
When I found out I Am Number Four started as a book, I downloaded it for my Kindle and started reading, hoping it would be better than the movie. It wasn’t. It’s worse. It's a cynical, nationalist, post-9/11 Author Tract about....a lot of things. There’s so much hilariously wrong with this book that it’s just begging to be covered in detail.
With the sequel, The Power of Six, coming out soon, and because nobody else seems to be doing it, I present to you my recap and critique of I Am Number Four:
The first thing you’re going to wonder about I Am Number 4 is “what the hell kind of name is Pittacus Lore, anyway?”
- About the author:Pittacus Lore is Lorien’s ruling elder. He has been on Earth for the last 12 years, preparing for the war that will decide Earth’s fate. His whereabout’s (sic) are unknown.
Oh, so it’s gonna be one of those science fiction books that pretends to be a historical record of something that really happened? Other than not wanting to put the names of James Frey and his ghostwriter Jobie Hughes on the cover, I have no idea why they thought they needed this as a gimmick since it seems kind of half-assed. We’re not exactly dealing with a Lemony Snicket here.
Right away we see a few problems with this. The book isn’t written from Pittacus Lore’s perspective, it’s narrated by protagonist Four/John Smith. How is that supposed to work? My guess is that a wizard did it. There’s also a little grammatical mistake, at least in the Kindle edition, and the editing of this book is something I’ll get to later.
Finally, we see the first hints that this one group of secretive, all-powerful aliens thinks Earth needs them to protect it from another group of aliens. That opens a huge can of worms that I’ll blog about thoroughly later, but if I had to distill the political message of this book so far, it’s along the lines of “To save the environment, the planet needs to be controlled by a permanent political class of Übermensch.” Yikes.
Let’s begin the book, shall we?
We start off with a warning that the events in this book are real, other civilizations exist and want to destroy us, and so on. It’s like an attempt to scare the hell out of paranoid people, which is a sort of cynical way to treat your audience, don’t you think?
It’ll get worse.
- The door starts shaking.
The second thing we notice about this book is that it’s written in present tense. I always hated this for how passive it makes everything sound, but I’ll freely admit that it can be done well. But this isn’t it. There’s no discernible reason for it, other than maybe they wrote a book just so they could sell the film rights to Michael Bay to make a lot more money and wanted to give it some literary pretentiousness so that wasn’t too obvious.
The “subtle” shaking of the door (seriously, why the adjective? I’m pretty sure every third sentence of this book is redundant and I’ll look for better examples later) wakes up a shirtless fourteen-year-old boy and a shirtless fifty-year-old man whom the book helpfully tells us is not his father and it’s taking all my willpower not to make a joke about that.
The older man says “No,” gets stabbed by a sword, says “Run,” and dies. Nice knowing ya!
Meanwhile, our other expendable-opening-character
- leaps from the cot, bursts through the rear wall. He doesn’t bother with the door or a window, he literally runs through the wall.
Like one of the Looney Tunes?
Roadrunner here dashes off at “sixty miles per hour,” jumping over trees and streams in a single bound and stuff like that. He’s being chased by “heavy footsteps” which is really confusing because I don’t know how the humanoid bad guys could have heavy footsteps while running through a jungle at cheetah-speed.
- He sees a huge ravine, three hundred feet across and three hundred feet down, with a river at the bottom. The river’s bank is covered with huge boulders. Boulders that would break him apart if he fell on them.
And That's Terrible. See what I mean about redundant sentences? Also, despite using the present tense as if to have access to the narrator’s immediate impressions, we’re getting some oddly specific measurements here. Like how the sword protruded exactly six inches out of his guardian’s back earlier.
Anyway, the kid makes the 300 foot leap only to instantly be throttled by one of the bad guys, which the narration tells us are called Mogadorians. With a name like that, your species will only ever get to be Babylon 5 villains of the week. No wonder they’re pissed off.
The kid says something brave and mysterious like “The Legacies live. They will find each other, and when they’re ready, they’re going to destroy you.” The “Mogadarian” (typo #2!) laughs an evil laugh like a villain should and stabs him to death.
Notice how this was written like the perfect opening to a movie? I didn’t pay attention to this part in the movie because I was playing Minecraft, but the book scene is also simplistically cinematic.
NEXT: Hormonal problems galore.