Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens (2010) by Brandon Sanderson

This book, and my reactions to it, are so similar to the first book in the series, that I’m firstly going to reprint what I said in my review of that preceding book, then at the end address a few thoughts specific to this, the fourth entry in the series.

I don’t enjoy this level of children’s literature, and I find Brandon Sanderson’s humour very hit or miss, so it was unlikely I was ever going to love the Alcatraz series, but I love his other works enough that I felt compelled to read everything he’s published. So on I went to read these.

There are some likable aspects – the inclusion of illustrations, the illustrations themselves, some of the subversion of fantasy and children’s literature conventions, some of the creative worldbuilding – but overall, like I expected, I didn’t enjoy the book very much. Not a knock against the book, as I’m hardly the target audience, but the main character and their endless musings directed at the reader felt very obnoxious to me. The mentor character was likable, but nobody else was to me.

I imagine I would have enjoyed this book quite a lot when I was the age of the target audience, and it’s certainly competently written, but as could be expected, it’s ultimately not for me!

Now, for my thoughts specific to this book. Like the second and third books, it has a looser story than the first one, the plot more connective tissue between set pieces than something naturally complementing character development of the protagonist, as in the first book. This series is interconnected enough, and I trust Sanderson’s planning and design enough, that I’m not overly bothered by this kind of episodic nature of the sequel novels, as he’s clearly approaching the series as a singular work in some regards.

One thing that really irritates me in this series, that was particularly prevalent in this entry, is this vague anti-intellectual vibe. It’s entirely possible I’m just being sour and a spoilsport about a comedic children’s book series here, but I am bothered by messages like that in “Act V, Scene III”, where the idea of literary allusions and prose of any level other than strictly workmanlike are mocked endlessly. I know Sanderson is an enormous fan of genre fiction in many forms, but I really hate to think he shares any of Alcatraz’s thoughts on literary fiction. It isn’t pretentious to enjoy literary fiction. What a ridiculous and anti-intellectual thought.

I give this book two lenses, and a technologically advanced sword.


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