Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Book Reviews: “Floors” and “3 Below” by Patrick Carman

Title: Floors
Author: Patrick Carman
Genre: Children's Fiction
Rating: 5

When I first read Floors by Mr. Carman, I cannot say that I was impressed. Not because of the book’s own worth, but because of the reputation of its author. Having begun with ‘The Land of Elyon” series, a Christian Fantasy which utterly enthralled me and gave birth to my first, unmentionable, completed novel (And please note that I use the term ‘completed’ in the very loosest of senses, as the story was written from a point of beginning and I somehow managed to drag it into an ending.), I had high expectations of quality. At that point in time I considered Mr. Carman one of my favorite authors. Since having read some of his other young adult/children’s literature works, I am wary of using those words, though they still hold a semblance of truth in them. For the sake of time and space, I will avoid mentioning his less-favorable books for the moment, although I might decide to come back and discuss them at a later date.

In any case, I opened Floors with mild senses of expectation and foreboding. I melted, however, upon reading this, said of one of the central characters: ‘“You will prosper in the field of wacky inventions” were the only words of advice Merganzer had been given. If only Merganzer had known they were spoken by a man who’d been talking gibberish for weeks. Things might have turned out differently.’ (Excerpt from the prologue.)

Floors, the first in a projected series now consisting of two children’s novels, is a wacky invention of its own and a peppy, bizarre thrill ride. It may be said of the book that it was rather poorly executed, as if Mr. Carman were in a hurry, or perhaps his editor was. A few things are just on the verge of being explained, but that explanation never comes. Sometimes you are waiting for the story to go in a direction it has hinted at for some time, but it turns a completely different way. When you are dealing with a hotel built by a duck-loving eccentric on a broad square of land smack dab in the center of Manhattan, on the other hand, things do tend to go a bit off-kilter. And, to be fair, most of the seeming inconsistencies are explained by the end of the book, or have a foreshadowing which leads to the next book.

The Whippet Hotel is quite possibly the weirdest place on earth: picture Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium from the film of the same name, only with less order, less magic, more mechanics, and a lot more ducks. Now picture that Merganzer D. Whippet, the owner and builder of the hotel, has been missing for one hundred days, leaving no clues as to how long he will be gone, what to do in the meantime, or whether or not he’s actually going to come back at all.

Running the Hotel, we find young Leo Fillmore and his father Clarence, the maintenance men. Not only do their duties include cleaning up after the guests, receiving messages from a shark head named Daisy, and walking the ducks; they must also keep all the rooms in full, wacky order. This means the robots must not be permitted to fight lest they disturb the delicate balance of a terribly famous author’s routine, and a great number of other calamities must be avoided on an hourly basis.

Amid an odd assortment of characters, Leo finds a friend in Remi, the son of the maid who acts as the new doorman while his mother works. Together, the two of them discover that Merganzer has left them a puzzle—aside from the gigantic one no one knows how to finish in the Puzzle Room. Following a mystery of puzzle boxes, clues, the shady MR. M, hidden floors, and messages drawn onto glass walls, the two boys discover a lot is at stake as someone schemes to wrestle the hotel out from underneath Merganzer’s capable—if not fully present—hands.

Floors is a good book over all. I might wish some more thought and character building had gone into the story, but I would recommend the book with very little hesitation.

Title: 3 Below
Author: Patrick Carman
Genre: Children's Fiction
Rating: 4

3 Below is another story. (Aside: That pun was entirely unintended and would be a downright lousy one regardless.) It follows in its predecessor’s footsteps with its hilarity and off-the-wall humor. There’s even a mad scientist. And monkeys. Can’t forget about them. On the negative side, some irregularity is found in the makeup of a few of the original characters. Something in the character of the book itself is different and lacking. While I enjoyed 3 Below, I found the second half, or perhaps the last third of the book to be the best. This book also had a somewhat clumsy, unfinished feel to it. This disappoints me because, and despite my disagreements with him, Mr. Carman is a skilled and often lyrical writer.

Both books lack any distasteful language or vulgarity which always earns a plus from my side of things. In Floors, there is a Halloween party and some questionable characters show up, but not in an overtly offensive way. Also, in 3 Below, there is…well, ‘excessive burping’ sums it up nicely. I went along with this and it all worked out for the story and the plot. I also paused to remind myself that the two main characters are young boys and that the majority of boys tend to find that sort of thing funny.

In fitting with the colorful scheme of these books, one might liken them to a pizza covered with all the toppings you can imagine, but completely lacking the crust. These would not classify on the list of my favorite books, by any means, but they are good reads, and wacky ones.

And I like wacky.

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