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Book Review

Book Cover

Daniel X
Watch the Skies


Author: James Patterson and Ned Rust
RRP: £11.99, US $7.99
ISBN: 978 0 385 61463 4
Available 02 July 2009

Holliswood is a small suburban town which has become the target of some particularly unpleasant aliens who plan to use the townsfolk as part of a twisted television show - the ending of which is always the disintegration of the participants. Earth, however, has a protector in the form of Daniel, an alien with extraordinary powers, but will they be enough this time...

Daniel X: Watch the Skies is a new children’s novel by James Patterson and Ned Rust. Although the dust jacket rates the book as 11+, the contents are more likely to appeal to boys aged eight.

I don’t know if it is the difference between my own age and the age of the target audience, but I found it difficult to get on with the book. For a start the chapters are insanely short, often only two pages and as those pages are not filled with text you get the feeling that the two hundred and forty-four pages only actually contain one hundred and eighty pages.

The main character of Daniel is problematic as well. Daniel has access to a database of alien miscreants who are causing trouble on Earth, in this latest adventure he is tracking down Number 5, so called as he is fifth in the hit list. Number 1 actually killed Daniel's parents, so wouldn’t he just go after him first, if only out of revenge. In fact Daniel mentions his parent’s demise, but you never really get a feeling that there is much of an emotional connection to this tragic event.

Daniel is blessed with great power, he can summon into being anyone he can think of and frequently does. He also is able to engage in the transmutation of objects, so in one passage he transforms a death ray to a water pistol. Is it just me, or does that not imbue him with almost god-like powers? So why does he feel the need to beat the villains to a pulp, with his bare hands, which has the option of loosing when he can just transform them into goo. He kills enough of the villains, so morality does not appear to be the restriction here.

I also had problems with the language. Now Patterson is a very successful American writer, so it’s unclear whether words like "cool" have just fallen out of fashion this side of the pond, or if the author has a rose tinted view of the sort of language young people actually use.

As a romp its okay, it requires little from the reader as scenes flow from one to another. If there is a subtext about the exploitation of television it was a bit lost on me, I just get the feeling that Patterson chose this as a hook to hang the narrative on.

The book is likely to appeal to a young reader who just wants to see Daniel engage in daring do, but I think anyone over eleven is likely to pull the weak plot apart.


Charles Packer

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