Publisher: Vision, Hachette Book Group, New York, NY 10017
Location: 237 Park Ave
reviewed by: Lynard Barnes 1/2/2010
Summary: Teen alien Daniel X saves the world from other aliens.
Someone started a thought with, “If THE DANEROUS DAYS OF DANIEL X were a movie . . .” We can only hope it doesn’t come to that but given the infinite capacity for digital fabrications in the world, this book is bound to be a movie if for no other reason than it is a book—sort of. That it is aimed at “young readers”—whoever they are—makes DANIEL X an even greater mishap than if it were merely scrawled on a bathroom wall in a gas station somewhere: all 220 pages, divided into 92 chapters.
DANIEL X is an imaginative romp in the realm of imagination. To what end? There is no end. Therein lies the problem with this book. The argument can be made that the unknown bounds of quantum physics essentially means that there really are no bounds to imagination and possibly no bounds to reality as well. The reader must keep this, or some variation of it, in mind while reading DANIEL X. Even this generous license however is abused in a subtle and iconoclastic manner. If it were written by a “young reader”–whoever he or she might be-subtlety would not be an issue. Iconoclastic logic would not be an issue. But it was written by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge—not your run of the mill “young readers”—whoever they are.
Okay, so there are evil aliens masquerading as humans. They are hell-bent on conquering the lovely blue planet Earth. As the top twenty alien infiltrators await their backup invasion force, they engage in every conceivable nefarious crime imaginable including-and this is odd-making block-buster movies. As galactic luck would have it, Earth has a savior in the form of Daniel X. At the tender age of three, having escaped the execution of his parent by The Prayer, one of the alien force, by turning himself into a bug, Daniel X takes up the torch of saving Earth from the evil aliens. The story fast forwards twelve years and we find Daniel X in his boy form at age fifteen doing anti-evil-alien things, tracking down the aliens on the top twenty list and destroying them. All this in preparation for his ultimate battle with The Prayer, the executioner of his crusading parents.
Very entertaining stuff. Escapism—almost.
Can a three year old, even an alien three year old which Daniel X is purported to be, turn himself into a bug in order to escape a life-threatening situation? The answer is probably yes. For quantum physics reality, the answer is definitely yes. More to the point perhaps, a child witnessing the murder of his parents could transform into an insect to escape the situation. In psychological literature, human children confronting sexual or physical abuse engage a fantasy realm to achieve Daniel X’s “reality” coping mechanism. There’s that word, reality. Is it okay to cope with an adverse reality by engaging the imagination? It is a rhetorical question.
The evil-alien (as opposed to illegal alien-we don’t want to confused the two) that Daniel X spends the greatest amount of time fighting in the book is Ergent Seth. According the Daniel X list of top twenty, Ergent Seth is known for his “drug dealing, mass murder, abductions [as in kids], torture, mind control and possession. . .” His favorite haunts for illegal activities are “LA and Orange County, California, Central City, East LA, Arizona Nevada, Mexico, South and Central America. And still branching out.” The only thing which can safely be said about Ergent Seth is that he is not “us”. If not “us”, he must be “them”.
There was a time when an imaginative romp in the realm of imagination meant moving beyond the pedestrian sidewalks of everyday life. In Daniel X, the pedestrian sidewalks are re-named and imbued with just enough non-logic to make them seem “novel”. Hence, Ergent Seth the drug dealing alien who keeps kids as “slaves” and sends them out on the streets of Orange County, California to sell “drugs” is a rather run-of-the-mill, pedestrian drug trafficker with the caveat that he is an extraterrestrial alien. Nice. Does this mean that THE DANEROUS DAYS OF DANIEL X could be an allegory for the life-and-death threats to today’s youth? But to what end?
Let’s say that there is an age between three and eight years of age when our proclivity for fantasy is fueled by realities we can not control. After a spat of cowboys-and-Indians or perfect-mother in a perfect house, we shift gears and start engaging reality on mutually agreed upon terms. We bend to the dictates of reality because we have no choice. But reality also curves somewhat to fit the force of the “me” pushing back.
The problem with THE DANEROUS DAYS OF DANIEL X is that there is no “me” anywhere in its pages. It is a sojourn into the realm of fantasy for fantasy’s sake. It is inescapable that this book be compared to JUMPER. Unlike the novel JUMPER by Steven Gould (published in 1992 and re-released in 2008), THE DANEROUS DAYS OF DANIEL X ventures out into the wasteland of childhood fantasy and stays there. Lost. Hopefully. For eternity.