(The Oz Chronicles, Book 1)
R. W. Ridley
Fiction, YA Fantasy/Horror
DESCRIPTION: Thirteen-year-old Oz Griffin lost a week of his life to a high fever... and may well have lost his mind. When he wakes up, his parents are gone, as is everyone in the neighborhood - and maybe the world. With his dog Kimball and the neighbor's newborn boy, Nate, he sets out in search of answers and survivors, not necessarily in that order. The world has been overrun by monsters called Takers, which seem to have escaped from a mentally-challenged classmate's comic books. Unfortunately, their creator, Stevie, committed suicide after years of merciless teasing by boys like Oz. Now, this unlikely and unprepared warrior may be the world's last chance at salvation... assuming he can survive Stevie's vengeful monsters.
REVIEW: Starting fast, The Takers is, by turns, both creepy and surreal. The devastating effects of bullying find physical manifestation in the Takers and other beasts Oz and his companions must face; Stevie, it turns out, wasn't the only special-needs child to birth hordes of monsters from his suffering. Ridley edges close to browbeating on this point, though I personally felt more annoyed at how the two female characters seemed largely helpless compared to the boys. On the whole, it moved quickly, though the plot tends to handwave logic away by having the quest dictated by the late Stevie's comic book; characters often do (or don't do) things simply because "that's how it is" or "it just feels right." It also ends on a cliffhanger, leading into the second Oz book. Ridley also lost some credibility with poor research; he has horses "slow down" to a gallop, and crossbows firing arrows instead of bolts or quarrels. (Minor things, true, but such little mistakes made me more critical of the overall story arc.) Overall, while I won't be following Oz Griffin's future adventures, I can definitely say that I've read worse stories.
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