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Book: The Eyes Of The Killer Robot, plus some nerdy thoughts

February 1, 2008
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Ugh, you see what I mean? The non-Gorey covers are just not as good. However, after the disappointing “Shadows” book, I was glad to see that my memory of the Johnny Dixon books was correct: back to being scary, tense, funny and quirky.

“And then, as Johnny watched, the man stood up. He took his hands away from his face and he stumbled. Johnny gasped in terror — the man had no eyes. Streaks of blood ran down from empty black sockets.

“They took my eyes,” the man moaned. “They took my eyes.”

Johnny opened and closed his mouth, and made little whimpering noises. He shut his eyes tight to block out this horrible vision, and when he opened them again a second later, the man was gone.”

These were written for young people, but still, that’s pretty icky. Yay! We like ick and spooks.

Anyway, I think I’m done with the Bellairs books (for a little while). I have to keep some in my pocket for sick days or rewards. But, some thoughts occured to me while reading all these books… clearly some are better than others. But why is that? Same author, same ‘world’, same age target… why were some SO much better than others?

** NERD ALERT **

The “Clock” book was the best of the bunch that I’ve read. From the first page, “He looked down at his purple corduroy trousers, the kind that go whip-whip when you walk. He put his hand up and rubbed it across his hair, which was parted in the middle and slicked down with Wildroot Cream… His lips were moving, and he was saying a prayer. It was one of his altar-boy prayers…”
See, already you’ve got quirk, interest, unusual use of language, lots of things to think about. Purple trousers and the sound they make. What is Wildroot Cream? What prayer was he whispering? We know he was an altar boy, that he was the kind of boy who slicked down his hair. A boy who wears corduroy trousers… he’s a good boy. The book only gets better from there, with deeply drawn characters and real tension, suspense, and good strong scares.

Contrasted with the second book, “…It was a real battle. Tom Lutz and Dave Shellenberger were two of the big wheels that ran Lewis’s school. Usually they beat up on everybody else, now they were slugging it out with each other. In a funny way, it reminded Lews of the battles of the gods and heroes that he had read about in the Classics Comics version of The Iliad.”

See what I mean? Immediately the language is simpler, the images not as complex, very straight-forward. Nice touch about The Iliad, but still. Suddenly I feel like I’m reading an outline, a shell of a book. The first book was the real thing. The other two books I read fell somewhere in the middle… the “Warlock” book being a little worse, the “Killer Robot” book being a little better.

I would like to read them all chronologically to find out if my theory — that Bellairs got socked with criticisms of “too scary” and “too adult” with his first book, so he swung the other way with the second, and then found a good middle ground from there on out — is correct. But, I have other books to read (and studying to do) so I won’t do that. But I do wonder, because the change is so marked.

Anyway. I could geek out on this for a long time, but don’t you wonder about that with other authors? Like, why was that one book so good, but then the next one so bad? This weekend will be a lot of reading, but not the fun kind. Cells and organic chemistry and lots of boring stuff like that. But I do have another Nick Hornby book to reward myself with when all the studying’s done. I promise I’ll write something other than book reports… soon.

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