Saturday, April 27, 2013

Tusk by Wolfgang Pie

Two Ice Age kids are orphaned and left to survive alone in the wild after their parents are killed in a bear attack. Tusk and his sister, Flint, discover ancient cave paintings with a horrific warning and instructions on how to survive a deadly meteor headed their way. Tusk is a natural born leader and believes only he can warn others and lead the clans to the land bridge and the New World. Flint has secrets of her own and a plan with a woolly mammoth to unite the animal kingdom before their world is blown away.

My review:
This book doesn't get very many stars from me, three at the most, though I liked the concept. I love reading other people's ideas about what life might have been like before there was such a thing as recorded history. This book was written for kids maybe six years old to maybe nine years old, but even giving allowances for the age group, I found many things about this story rather annoying. There are some overall concepts I'm willing to overlook, and some I may even agree with. One is the concept that civilization on this world has come and gone more than once, and maybe more than a few times. Another is that clairvoyants or seers, call them what you wish, do exist and always have. 

I have no issues with the world Wolfgang has created, but there are so many inappropriate occurrences that made the story rather frustrating for me, even making allowances for the much younger mind. A family was abandoned, it sounds like in the early winter, by the tribe, because the mother had a broken leg and the shaman said they had to move on in order to avoid the big storm coming. Hmmmm well okay, so that sets the stage, but really? Maybe, maybe not, but it leads me to really dislike this shaman for giving such an order without trying to find some sort of alternative. I mean - a family alone - one hunter - it's a death sentence, if you ask me. And it was, for the parents. But again, it serves to set the stage.

So here are these two kids, the boy is like sixteen and the girl ten, and they're all alone. Now, in this kind of society, kids aren't really kids anymore as soon as they can rub two sticks together or pick up a spear, so these kids should have been pretty much grown up. Okay, so the loss of their parents would have been devastating, so tears are fine by me, even from the boy, but the girl acted pretty much like a whiny brat throughout most of the book. Yeah well it takes all kinds - maybe she was. It makes little difference.

But then comes the rest of the inconsistencies. I do not believe in this era, the concept of a pet was even thought of, probably not even a word for it back then. But okay, so they decide to adopt a baby mammoth - yeah, I might have - they are SO very cute. But did you notice what time of year it is, or at least I think it is. Who knows, maybe it's early spring and this big storm is a spring storm. Anyway, babies are born in the spring. This baby was dumped in snow that was around two or three feet deep judging by how high it was on Tusk's legs when he went out to investigate the sounds of crying. So, in the interest of not starving to death, he brought it home to butcher - only they didn't. Notice, food was a concern. Hunting was a concern. Survival was a concern, and rightly so. And yet Tusk never goes hunting. Instead they, seemingly for the first time, go exploring the big cave they've been living in. Really? For the first time? Hmmmm

They not only find paintings left by their father that foretold all that did happened would happen, they also found paintings with vivid colors impossible to make. Well, okay so their father is something of a seer, fine, but tell me no one but him knew of this other paintings, No one ever explored where they led, and they led way off into the dark, into where 'daddy said not to go there' territory. They went anyway and found a pit with what looked like a mammoth tusk down in the bottom. Further exploration needed. Newborn mammoth to take care of.

Remember the snow? And yet they took the baby out to graze every day. Babies don't graze at a day or so old, and though they had milk from an auroch, which is something like an ox, left behind by the tribe, but not nearly enough to keep a baby mammoth alive long enough to switch to grass. According to the paintings, they would be riding her when she was big enough. Speaking of which, where is this family's portion of that herd? 

Remember the exploration project? Well, it seems they found a memorial or museum full of all sorts of stuffed animals kept in an underground amphitheater-type cavern under their home cave - sorta - or maybe not quite under. Around this big floor there's a bunch of tablets carved in stone and Turk can't read, but his little sister can - how convenient. Absolutely no mention of reading or writing materials before this, just painting to tell the story. Hmmmm

So Flint, the ten-year-old little girl, has forgotten some of the letters, but still she manages to read the whole story in only a few minutes, or that's what it sounds like, and the story is the ancient people who did all this, knew enough to warn the next round of civilization that disaster was going to come again, and that whoever read this needs to get across the land bridge right away. Imagine the clairvoyance of these people.

Four months later and Fur Baby was big enough to ride and they hare off across the country. They've got like a couple weeks to cross the mountains and make it across the land bridge and to high ground before this asteroid hits and destroys everything they know, and it's Tusk's greatest wish to be able to rescue someone along the way, to get at least someone else to safety. Admirable - truly. 

Along in here the timeline gets kinda messed up and I can't get an accurate feel for the passage of time, but kids wouldn't notice, so - whatever. Anyway, Fur Baby takes off after their first night out so the kids are on foot. Things happen and Flint gets nabbed by some hyenas without a peep. I'm sorry Tusk might have been in a huff, but he'd have heard something, hyenas are not that quiet dragging a body, even if she was killed instantly. And no calls after to join the feast. 

So Tusk is all devastated because he trips over her shoe and it's all bloody and that's all he can find of her. I can understand that - now he's all alone - completely. Only she comes back miraculously rescued by Fur Baby (and without a sound).

Next thing she does is she calls all the animals in the area by whirling a bullroarer while standing on top of Fur Baby. Okay, but I simply can't see that working. But somehow she casts a spell over all these animals so they don't kill each other. Notice also that they never get hungry and they still have like maybe a week of travel left. So they get to camp every night and roast their never ending supply of meat, and the grazers all get to graze to their heart's content, but the hunters get to go hungry, happily.

A few days later they come upon some people, and ten-year-old Flint and the shaman hit it off all peachy and these people join their odd procession. I'm sorry - what spell is that? We could probably use something like that today.

A day or so later, they run across their original clan and of course the shaman who abandoned them knew everything was supposed to happen the way it did, and it was all for the best, and now this sixteen-year-old boy is the driving force and motivational speaker for everyone, including the animals, all because everyone knew that was the way it was supposed to be. 

Yeah, so this story has all the necessary elements but they were handled so very poorly. At less than 100 pages, it reads rushed, and if it was edited, I hope that editor doesn't get another job. There were missing words, misspelled words, and utterly wrong words, and I'm not talking about those annoying words that sound right but aren't. And then we come to the formatting. For a kindle, generally a three-space indent is enough, but five is good too, however paragraph indents were all over the place to include some starting very nearly in the center of the page.

Sorry this turned into something of a rant, but if you're going to publish, take some pride in it. I was looking forward to reading this book even if it was written for a child. I was disappointed. 

1 comment:

William Kendall said...

Sounds like there were too many plotholes and mistakes straight from the start.