Jack Danielson has lived an ordinary life – pointedly so, in fact; his father reins him in every time he risks getting grades too good, winning sports too much, or otherwise calling attention to himself. When he ignores his father’s well-meant advice and breaks a league record in football, he’s suddenly on the run, with a telepathic dog for company. A few mysterious and dangerous women pop in from time to time, plus some monsters and visions, as Jack slowly learns that he has to save the Earth from humans before we completely destroy the environment.
It begins: “Halloween week in Hadley-by-Hudson. Senior year of high school. Nine in the evening. Had enough sentence fragments? My English teacher said they are a weakness of mine.”¹
I’ve got to agree with his English teacher: they are annoying. As is his habit of saying “Look that one up in the dictionary, my friend”² every time he uses a word of four syllables of more. He clearly thinks this highlights his vocabulary and extensive SAT prep; really, it would be more impressive if he wasn’t saying, basically, “I learned this word special!” Plus, it makes him come off as a pompous asshole. Which is pretty accurate, but did create some extra distance between me and the book. I cared about Jack’s mission; I neither liked nor cared about Jack.
Obnoxious narrator aside, it’s a pretty good book. A lot happens, but everything gets enough time. Similarly, it’s the first in a planned trilogy; the ending leaves no doubt that there’s more to come, but it isn’t a jarring stop. The environmentalism is dealt with well; it shows the damage we’re doing to the Earth, rather than preaching. It also recognizes that most people are not willfully contributing to the damage, but do accept the status quo without asking difficult questions. Personally, between Firestorm and Mark Bittman’s recent article on finding fish one can buy ethically,³ I’m rather glad to be vegetarian. Makes life simpler.
²p. 4; variations abound throughout the text.
³conveniently published the day after I finished Firestorm. Clearly, the universe really wants me to get this point.