From my previous posts you will have learned that I am quite taken with these ‘Steampunk Fairytales’. I think the subject matter is fascinating and the idea of these human made machines which can destroy whole civilisations, so terribly intriguing.
The sequel to Haywired continues the story of Ludwig von Guggenstein, and his attempts to bring his father (Mandrake) to justice. Along with his brother, Hephaestus, and the now automated Captain, Ludwig embarks upon a pirate life pursuing Mandrake across the seas to a dastardly town of thieves and thugs. More monstrous machines enter his world, more devious human beings, more secrets come to the surface including one hum-dinger of a cover up which would unpick Ludwig’s very existence. The plot is well structured and has followed on succinctly from the first and leaves on quite a cliffhanger with promise of more in the future.
I have enjoyed the story, but less than the first, unfortunately. As with Haywired, I think it is a perfect book for the more able Primary readers, and a fabulous teaching tool for themed lessons in Key Stage 2 (see Haywired lesson ideas). I would genuinely use this series in my teaching – the swashbuckling storyline and wild and varied characters are perfect for submerging those stubborn boys in books. It is indeed a good stepping stone. However, from an adult perspective, I found this book less of a challenge, obviously.
With thoughts of potential interviews looming (hopefully) I have begun to ponder those twenty minute snap shot sessions which could dictate my future step. Being well in my comfort zone, I begin to pick through novels I have read and know would engage and provide an exciting stimulus. Both Haywwired and Re:wired currently have post-it-noted sections which I could use. But I think this picking over has proved a little detrimental to my reading of this second book. It is no way as detailed as I would like it.
I feel a little frustrated for Mr Keller as I suspect heavy handed editing in places, as I am occasionally left a little lost as to what is going on. You can see clearly the areas where his wonderful writing style has been allowed to bloom, I just can’t help feeling it has been chopped down too often in too many places. I love that there are attempts at many stranded stories pulling together seemingly by coincidence (is there something a little more sinister to it all?!) but sometimes I was made to question just exactly what weight these additional characters gave to the story. I appreciate that shorter books ingratiate boy readers with greater ease, and that they are (in this climate particularly) perhaps cheaper to publish, but I can’t help feeling that had this book been given another 30-50 pages that it wouldn’t just be a good book, it would be a GREAT book. It would prevent certain sections from being too dialogue heavy and allow more room for descriptive whimsy and emotion.
But I feel I am being a little harsh now. The suspense is still there and as I have said, the plot is a good one, exciting, interesting and dangerous. There are sword fights a-plenty and a terrific tom-boy role model for girls (is it me or are tom-boys seriously lacking in contemporary children’s fiction?!) enters to add depth and richness – a good character I feel for developing in future stories. The machines are more terrifying than ever and the bad guys just get badder! And it is ideal for struggling or stubborn readers because it gets to the action and crux of the story quickly but might rely a little too much on the reader’s own imagination – again, possibly not a problem for the computer game/app hungry youth! For me personally, I just needed a little bit more.
But it does make me want to read more, so job done! I want to read what Alex Keller has next as I genuinely think he has a talent and his stories do keep me entertained. They also make me want to branch out into the Steampunk Genre – Re:wired has caused me to dream of mechanical monsters and evil doers for over a week now! I do want to know more, I want to be able to talk about such things with an actual educated understanding – not just this bystander’s meaningless view point. I think it’s brilliant, magical and marvellous – I just wish there was something on the pile which I could start today. Alas, a little shopping is required!