The Reality Bug (Pendragon) by D J MacHale

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The Reality Bug (Pendragon) by D J MacHale

Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A strong novel about virtual realities that has enough to break away from it being book four of ten in a teen series. It almost manages to stand alone, but certainly flags this series up for me as one well worth paying attention to.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: February 2009
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Children's
ISBN: 978-1847384478

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Sometimes I have to doubt the book reviewing gods. When they suggest the best thing for me to spend my time on is a ten-part teen series, and I should read books 4-7, I have to wonder what I'm letting myself in for. Can I really enter such a cumbersome entity at such a point, and still find merit in it? Well, on this evidence, I certainly can.

Bobby Pendragon is a traveller, whose task is to trek across the galaxy in a fight against a devilish demon, called Saint Dane. Several planets have a traveller each, and Bobby must combine with them, using only their wits and natural abilities, to counter his efforts in an immense battle, across something called Halla, between good and evil.

The fact Pendragon and his colleagues travel by a wormhole kind of tube, and communicate by messages teleported around courtesy of their rings, brings us on to the many references I found in these pages. There is a lot of Green Lantern, a whole host of cribs from Stargate, and - specific to the wacky, diverse adventure here - bits of Westworld, The Little Shop of Horrors, The Time Machine, and a lot of Terminator 2-styled FX.

But the main merit in the book is that this book does not just nestle tidily and anonymously in some huge bland story arc. It concentrates a lot more on the singular adventure here, with Bobby fetching up on a planet that seems to have found a Utopia through a special form of virtual reality. Bobby has his task to do as regards Saint Dane, his work cut out when it comes to redressing the problems on this world, and crams in a reunion with his long-missed parents. Meanwhile, at home, his girlfriend and best buddy are making their biggest steps yet towards being helping hands...

This means there is a brilliant depth of scale to the book. I might have been concentrating on Bobby more than most at the beginning, as I had catching up on the character to do, but the way we swoop gently from just him and his companions, to a whole world in peril, is superb. It's done very realistically, and is added to by the depth of the book.

Yes, that depth does mean there is some over-writing. The ideas of the book allow for too much invention, and I dread when future episodes are a lot longer than this, which is one reason why this book doesn't get full marks. The other is the format - we have the action portrayed to us in messages recorded after the event by Bobby. I think however there is such an immediacy to the first-person style that the target audience will easily fail to realise this means Bobby does survive to tell the tale, and still get swallowed up by the adventure. The action scenes - both with Bobby and the other travellers, and with his friends at home - are very absorbing.

This is not the ideal place to start a series, after all - it's a little awkward to work out where all these people are coming from at the beginning, and it's disconcerting that the people left here we're supposed to care for live on Earth 2. But I found the fact this book is a fully-fledged sci-fi and fantasy adventure first and foremost, and an entry to a wide-ranging series second, most welcome, and I can still recommend this book. There is excellent depth here, from the scope of the drama to the emotional and moral sides to things - there is a questioning of the young Bobby's ability to do things for the greater good.

Seeing part 3 seems to have been about World War 2 and espionage, this is looking to my eyes on this evidence to be a series of no small merit. It's daft my city libraries have never heard of any of it, and these reprinted adventures, while we gear up to book 9 or 10 (depending on which side of the Atlantic we reside) will be happily received.

This strong part 4 gets a strong 4 stars. Just one of the unexpected things I found here, in this very welcome review copy - thanks, Simon and Schuster!

If this book appeals then we think that you might also enjoy Fever Crumb (Mortal Engines Quartet Prequel) by Philip Reeve.

Buy The Reality Bug (Pendragon) by D J MacHale at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Reality Bug (Pendragon) by D J MacHale at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Reality Bug (Pendragon) by D J MacHale at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Reality Bug (Pendragon) by D J MacHale at Amazon.com.


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