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Brandon Sanderson – Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians

October 28, 2008

129. Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson (2007)
Alcatraz Smedry, Book 1

Length: 312 pages
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Started: 18 October 2008, 10 p.m.
Finished: 19 October 2008, just after midnight.

Alcatraz must keep
evil Librarians from
world domination.

Summary: Alcatraz Smedry is a 13-year-old orphan who has three things: a terrible name, a talent for breaking things, and a bag of sand that arrived in the mail on his birthday, and is supposedly his inheritance from his parents. However, when the sand gets stolen and a strange man shows up at Alcatraz’s foster home, claiming to be his grandfather, Alcatraz enters a world he didn’t know existed, a world where multiple generations of Smedrys have used their Talents to fight against the Librarians who restrict the flow of information and so keep the populace under their control. Alcatraz was sent as a baby to be raised in the Hushlands – as they call Librarian-controlled areas – so that he would understand its strange ways. But now, the Librarians have the sand – sand that will help them create the weapon they need to achieve world domination – and so Alcatraz must infiltrate the local library and steal it back. This book is Alcatraz’s recounting of that adventure, only published under Sanderson’s name so that the Librarians would overlook it as harmless fantasy, thus allowing Alcatraz’s message to be leaked out to enlighten all of us here in the Hushlands.

Review: So, so, silly, and yet, so, so much fun. In a lot of ways, this book reminded me of Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series done in a fantasy universe instead of a sci-fi universe – mostly the frenetic pacing and the constant stream of hoverboard chases/fights with paper demons that make it feel more like a movie script than a novel. This book was a lot funnier, and infinitely more self-aware, however; Alcatraz spends a lot of time telling us what terrible people authors are, taking pot-shots at pop culture, and making sardonic observations about how hopelessly clueless we, the Hushlander readers, are. Readers looking for mini versions of Sanderson’s adult fantasy novels (which, the author’s note assures us, are “useless bouts of delusion in literary form” and were “dictate[d] … to his potted plant, Count Duku”) are probably going to be surprised – while Sanderson’s outsized imagination and skill at creating unique, internally consistent magical systems is intact, Alcatraz has a completely different tone than Sanderson’s adult books, and has both the action and the goofiness turned up to 11. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Fun, fast, and perfectly silly, middle-grade to young-adult readers are going to eat this up, and the silliness is underlaid with enough clever wit that it’s good fun for adults as well.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Links: Brandon Sanderson’s Website, Unshelved Book Club comic strip

Other Reviews: Bookshelves of Doom, Jandy’s Reading Room, Circle of Friends Reviews, Musings of a Bookworm
Did I miss your review? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: So, there I was, tied to an altar made from outdated encyclopedias, about to get sacrificed to the dark powers by a cult of evil Librarians.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. October 28, 2008 10:16 am

    I actually just picked this one up at the library. I’m glad to know you enjoyed it. It looks pretty funny.

  2. October 28, 2008 4:43 pm

    This sounds irresistibly fun! And the title alone makes me want to read it :P

  3. October 29, 2008 9:01 am

    KT – Cool! I’ll look forward to hearing what you think about it; hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

    Nymeth – I doubt I would have picked it up if I hadn’t read and loved Sanderson’s adult fantasy, but it was super fun. And it is a great title, isn’t it?

  4. November 5, 2008 9:49 pm

    I just keep hearing this is great. I think I need to put it on my YA challenge list for next year :)

  5. November 6, 2008 9:25 am

    Corinne – You should! I really enjoyed it, and I think you will too, but even if you don’t, it’s short enough that it’s not much time wasted. :)

  6. Drecraga permalink
    December 11, 2009 5:20 pm

    This book is the most funny and interesting book I’ve ever read!

    I recommend everyone to read it.

  7. Xaq permalink
    November 6, 2012 10:32 pm

    I have just finished this book and i love it
    I definitely recomend

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