I got this book in a digital form courtesy of my friend pchłaszachrajka – thanks a lot!
It is a first person narrative about an alien boy sent to the Earth after his planet, beautiful and rich Lorien, was destroyed by hordes of ugly, greedy, cunning Mogadorians. There used to be Nine of them, children of the most powerful Loric families, with just a number instead a proper name and a guardian for company. They were hidden until they developed their powers, called Legacies, enabling them to defeat Mogadorian beasts and revive Lorien. A protective charm was placed to help them survive -they can only be killed in order. The Mogadorians are following them, though. They have found and killed three first kids (and their guardians). They are in a hurry to kill the rest too before they become strong enough to fight back.
All Nine are interconnected – if any of them is killed the rest get a kind of scar ring on their leg. After the third kill Number Four, bearing the name of “John Smith,” hides in Paradise, OH. His name used to be Daniel Jones. It used to be something else before that, and then something else before that. He is tired of these changes but he has no choice – he is next on Mogadorians’ ‘to kill’ list so his guardian and mentor, Henri, takes no chances and makes him move once again.
It’s a little different this time. Soon enough John Smith befriends a geeky kid who is a science-fiction enthusiast (his first real friend ever) and falls in love with Sarah, the prettiest girl in the whole school (his first real date ever). He also adopts, or rather is adopted by, a stray dog named Bernie Kosar (yeah, you guessed it right- the first pet ever). His Legacies start developing one by one. It can mean only one thing – the real war with Mogadorians might start any day now. Not to mention a scuffle or two with a band of local bullies as one of them fancies beautiful Sarah too. Who will survive and at what price?
What I liked:
This book uses a great idea and has some action, especially at the end. With its interesting premises and a fast-pace telling, the story can grab and hold readers but only those who are willing to suspend quite a bit of disbelief. Bernie Kosar, the lovely beagle, is easily the book’s breakout character by the way. Dogs are incredible creatures!
What I didn’t like:
Right now I should be dressed up as one of these ugly, red-eyed Mogadorian monsters with a muzzle full of big teeth, dripping drool and blood. I solemnly swear I am up to no good.
My first impression, was that the book was very reminiscent of ‘Superman’ from the early ’80s and, more recently, ROSWELL. When I finished it the comparisons to the X-Men surfaced too. In other words there is not even one shred of originality. A planet called ‘Lorien’? Wait a minute – didn’t we hear this name before? Of course LOTR and Galadriel…
I AM NUMBER FOUR is penned by two men – Jobie Hughes and James Frey. It seems both of them got ahead of themselves in writing for a movie-type audience. The movie might or might not be a sensation when the Dreamworks adaptation of this book is released in 2011 starring Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant and Dianna Agron. The book, however, is truly horrible – cliché, predictable, dumb and simplistic.
The concept is very similar to the Twilight series – there is the same stereotype mix of school kids – one outsider (a handsome alien with superpowers), one cute girl who falls in love with outsider for no apparent reason (well, he is special and handsome) , one jock who similarly hates outsider for equally no apparent reason and a geek who likes outsider for…. well you’ve guessed it.
The writing style cannot be even compared to Twilight – it is devoid of any complexity or writing skills or interesting vocabulary. Nothing is vivid, or picturesque, it all just feels so artificial, just like those silly rubbery sci-fi costumes. It reads like a bad movie script.
The characters all fell very flat, including John Smith (Number 4), which is weird since the story was written from his point of view (you think you’d get a better idea of who he is and actually understand and connect to him). Someone (like a good editor) needs to explain to John the exact definition of keeping a low profile. After all, dude, if you are supposed to be in hiding and blending in you can’t pick fights and impress your mates showing off your extra abilities. The fate of the whole planet (or maybe even two planets) depends on it. Is such a motivation not enough?
Plenty of things don’t make sense. What kind of protective charm is it if it protects one kids (like Number Nine) better and other kids (like Number One) almost not at all? Why, despite the fact that John and his mentor are being hunted by a savage alien race (and their death is imminent) the boy becomes so involved in a crudely spun romance with Sarah – a girl we are told over and over again is beautiful, blonde and intelligent (but who has less personality than an elastic band)? Doesn’t he have anything better to do? Martial Arts? Hare and hounds? The dates of John and Sarah are TRULY boring; after a while I really yearned for an ugly alien starting killing people right, left and centre. Ok, I admit it, even a vampire would do. Once again let me remind here Bella from Twilight, admiring the beauty and sparkle of her Edward every second page or so until the reader feels pretty nauseous – urgh!
Finally, there is so little to hint at the behaviours, customs, culture and lifestyles of the race these two main characters embody. We’re supposed to be reading this through the eyes of a perfect alien – so wouldn’t some human customs seem strange to him? Doesn’t he ponder on human frailties and vices from time to time? Guess not…thinking can bring bad headaches – the last ailment a superhero would like to have.
To sum up those who like their science fiction with a bit more science and internal logic, will have to search elsewhere.
Most fanfiction authors could claim to have written a more complex, heartfelt story. At this point I’m convinced the book was written solely to earn a bit more money before the movie is out. I’m extremely put off – I’ve heard this would be as good as The Hunger Games. What an insulting comparison! Do yourself a favour: don’t spend money on this book. If you are really interested either get it from the library or just wait a bit and watch the movie. In other words…