I can pretty well guarantee three kinds of
reaction to Alcatraz Smedry. There will be those who find him incredibly irritating to the
point of throwing the book across the room; those who find him uproariously funny, and
will be totally unable to put the book down; and those who find him alternately hilarious
and infuriating. I was one of the latter. Some passages, even taken out of context, were
so funny that they just had to be shared with the nearest person (generally my husband,
since I do much of my reading in bed). And sometimes it got just plain annoying. The
problem is that Alcatraz insists on frequent asides, at the beginning of almost every
chapter and frequently throughout. While this is in keeping with the
pseudo-autobiographical style the novels are written in, they do interrupt the narrative.
Intentionally. Now, these asides are often humorous, and sometimes remarkably apt, but I
can understand if some readers find the constant interjections intolerable.
Sanderson is writing in the persona of one Alcatraz Smedry, who a) wears
glasses, b) is thirteen-years-old, c) has secret powers, and d) belongs to a social order
which is independent of the rest of humanity, yet has been growing up among us. If this
reminds anyone of Harry Potter then I suspect its intentional. Alcatraz Smedry is
actually a Lord of the Free Kingdoms who secretly share the Earth with those of us
who live in the Hushlands, dominated and misled by multiple conspiracies of evil
Librarians. But hes been fostered somewhere in the USA. Several somewheres, in fact,
as his Smedry talent for breaking anything and everything makes him somewhat difficult to
live with. The four novels collected in The Complete Alcatraz
follow the adventures of Alcatraz Smedry as he battles various factions of Librarians
usually for all the wrong reasons.
I suspect that the same sort of young people that enjoyed the Harry Potter
novels would most likely enjoy (and benefit from as a sort of literary vaccine) the
collected memoirs of Alcatraz Smedry as will anyone with an appropriately warped
sense of humour, especially those of the librarian persuasion.