Sunday, December 16, 2018

Book Review: 'The Thirteenth Monk' by Tom Hoffman

Alaska author Tom Hoffman comes to young adult (+/- children’s) literature with a degree in psychology from Georgetown University and a BA in Oregon College of Art. Tom’s career has embraced being an artist, a graphic designer, and now an imaginative writer. Having read his Book 1 of his Orville Wellington Mouse series then beginning his earlier series, the Trilogy -THE ELEVENTH RING, THE THIRTEENTH MONK, and THE SEVENTH MEDALION - brings even more pleasure – the retrospective sort. The second book is this THE THIRTEENTH MONK.

Tom takes a chance with this book, stepping into science fiction using animals as characters, and it works very well indeed. One of the reasons the story hangs together so well is his well-considered anthropomorphic stance of his characters. Without stooping to the cuteness of today’s high money making films of animated stories, Tom keeps his level of sophistication very high indeed. His prose is luminous and makes the pleasure of reading the story all the more satisfying – adults can enjoy this book as well as teens, and for teens it presents a fine adventure tale in the language of sophistication that hopefully will replace the current acronym mode of communication fostered by the Internet and media!

For example, Tom opens his story thus: ‘Edmund was falling. He wasn’t falling for a lovely female Rabbiton, he wasn’t falling for one of the Tree of Eyes’ juvenile pranks, and he wasn’t falling for the persuasive banter of a fast talking door-to-door salesrabbit. He was instead falling through churning gray clouds at precisely one hundred and twenty miles per hour, terminal velocity for an object of standard air resistance. Edmund the Rabbiton was a ten foot tall, six hundred and ninety-four pound silver robot created by the former inhabitants of the Fortress of Elders. He had been created over fifteen hundred years ago, shortly before the mysterious Elders had abandoned their fortress and moved to Mandora, a peaceful new world of their own creation.’

But in deference to his loyal readers who are early in their reading of this trilogy Tom maps the course of what we will expect: ‘The Bartholomew the Adventurer Trilogy is a romping tale of adventure set in the far distant future after humans have vanished from the planet. The protagonist is a self-centered rabbit named Bartholomew who sets out in search of a missing object which he is unable to describe or name. Along the way he meets his adventuring companion, Oliver T. Rabbit, a brilliant scientist who also undergoes a deep transformation in the trilogy, coming to understand that there is no magic, only science, whether it’s time travel, parallel dimensions, manifesting physical objects with thoughts, or reincarnation. Their adventures take them to lost cities, parallel universes and other planets, along the way meeting a host of memorable characters including ancient robotic rabbits, the Tree of Eyes, the Singing Monks of Nirriim, the Blue Spectre, and Edmund the Explorer.’

The tight synopsis gels the tale well – ‘Oliver T. Rabbit develops a revolutionary new invention and Edmund the Rabbiton develops an inexplicable new phobia. When Edmund unwittingly opens an interdimensional doorway, Bartholomew, Oliver, and Edmund are pulled into the strange world of Nirriim. Edmund encounters the enigmatic thirteen Blue Monks, Master Singers of Nirriim and relives a life changing traumatic event which occurred fifteen hundred years ago during the Anarkkian Wars. With help from Ennzarr the Red Monk, the eerie Blue Spectre, and two unlikely treasure hunters named Thunder and Lightning, the three adventurers must find the lost Seventh Key and defeat the inconceivably powerful Wyrme of Deth or be trapped forever in the world of Nirriim.’

Titillating? Yes, and all the more so as the reader becomes involved in this highly imaginative interplanetary sci-fi little tale. This continues to be a very successful series. Grady Harp, September 16

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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