Time magazine called him the “man who can’t miss”. One out of 15 hardcover novels sold in 2007 in the US was written by him. He is the only author to feature at the top of both, the adult fiction and children’s chapter book best-sellers in The New York Times list, simultaneously. And he is the first author ever to be a Harvard Business School case study.
One could go on about James Patterson’s achievements but this review is about the latest book in the Maximum Ride series. The Final Warning follows The Angel Experiment, School’s Out Forever and Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports. In this fourth book, Max, Fang, Iggy, Nudge, Gasman, Angel—and the dog Total—are back.
Maximum Ride: The Final Warning:Century, 292 pages, Rs495
For those who have read any of the Maximum Ride books, it will be no surprise that these children can fly. For those who came in late, the three teenagers—Max (her name is Maximum Ride), Fang and Iggy—six-year-old Angel, eight-year-old Gasman and 11-year-old Nudge are “victims” of a government-sponsored experiment that went slightly awry. As a result, they sprout wings, which is a great advantage when you are out to save the world.
Nicknamed the Flock, the six are quite used to flying into danger with their eyes open. Max is the Flock leader. In The Final Warning, the Flock is sent out to Antarctica by the government, ostensibly to help gather data for a research project on global warming and its effect on the world.
However, it turns out that the expedition is not as simple as it was made out to be. The Flock gets caught between government forces, on the one hand, and sinister elements on the other. What makes it tougher for the Flock is the inhospitable climate. And it does not help that they are kidnapped to be auctioned to the highest bidder. The fact is that whoever controls Max can control the world. As it happens, it is the scientists who want to control Max.
Patterson makes his contribution to global warming activism in this book. And does it quite well—the twists and turns only serve to highlight the huge problem Earth faces. Patterson had actually set out to write a Maximum Ride trilogy, but The Final Warning just happened.
A former chairman of ad agency JWT, Patterson still writes with a pencil—no computers for him—and confesses that the Maximum Ride adventures were inspired by Peter Pan, his favourite character. Peter Pan was about flying and freedom for kids, so is Maximum Ride. Patterson, though he started off in 1976 with The Thomas Berryman Number, stepped up the pace just before 2000 and has written more than 40 books in barely a decade.
Patterson’s prolific output and his acknowledgements about help on his books—he likes to collaborate—prompted some like Jeffrey Archer to say, in a momentary fit of pique: “It’s not helped by James Patterson doing four to six books a year and actually putting another name on the cover with him. So, they think we all do it.” Archer was asked why best-selling authors are being haunted by rumours of ghost writers.
Lord Archer may have had his reasons, but Patterson is a good read any day—with or without his co-writers. Patterson’s books for adults include the Women’s Club Murders and the Alex Cross novels.
The writer is the editor of Heek (e-heek.com), a children’s magazine.
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