In “I Am Number Four: Book One of the Lorien Legacies,” nine infant humanoid aliens and their guardians, the Loriens, travel to Earth after their planet is ravaged by the Mogadorians, a violent species. After reaching Earth, the Loriens discover that the Mogadorians are on their trail, planning to annihilate them, and eventually humans, in order to plunder Earth’s resources.
The Lorien guardians keep the children hidden and help them develop their superhuman powers, also known as Legacies (what’s an alien without superhuman powers?) so that they can one day defeat the Mogadorians and go back to their home planet. Each child is assigned a number and, because of a charm cast when leaving Lorien, the children can only be killed in order of their numbers provided that they keep away from one another.
The story is told from the first-person perspective of John Smith, also known as Number Four. Upon discovering that Number Three has been killed, John and his guardian, Henri, move to Paradise, Ohio. Although John usually keeps to himself and has no friends since he is always on the run, he soon finds himself infatuated with a fellow student for the first time (Sarah, the cliché former cheerleader and former girlfriend of the football star). John also makes his first friend (Sam, the cliché nerd who wears NASA T-shirts daily).
I was excited about the aliens as I began this book but my excitement waned due to the obvious, elementary writing style. As an old writing teacher of mine used to say, “Show, don’t tell.” At times it was nice to not have to read between the lines. However, after 30 pages, I was about to put the book down, especially after reading about “extremely hot girls” wearing shirts reading, “We Do It Better in Tuscaloosa” and one of John’s superhuman powers, the ability to master video games extremely quickly. It seemed obvious to me that this book is meant for men aged 13-30, not a 20-something woman. I resigned myself to struggling through the rest of the book and writing a cynical, unfavorable review. The next day, I went about my usual routine and forgot about the book. That evening, I picked it up again to continue. I don’t know what it was, maybe black magic or merely the golden rule of giving every book at least 100 pages, but I suddenly found myself hooked. I fell in love with John and his inner struggles, as well as the science fiction and the high school boy-meets-girl love story.
The story, although cliche at times, also surprised me with deep thoughts such as, “Perhaps Sam wants to see the world as his dad did, but maybe part of him truly believes that his dad’s final sight is captured in the glasses, somehow etched into the lenses. Maybe he thinks that with persistence one day he’ll eventually come to see it as well, and that his dad’s last vision will confirm what is already in his head.”
I was able to get past the cliches and the writing because the story was so interesting. It fed my appetite for the existence of aliens, walking among us, and embedded messages within its pages about conserving Earth’s natural resources. The story also had me frantically turning the pages to find out what would happen next. Without giving anything away, the last hundred pages or so had me wide-eyed and nervous, lost within the world of Loriens and Mogadorians. This book is the first book in a planned six-book series published by HarperCollins and written by James Frey (notorious for being outed on Oprah because of his non-fiction “Million Little Pieces” book actually being mostly fictional) and newcomer Jobie Hughes. I am very excited for theupcoming movie, which began filming May 17. The movie stars Timothy Olyphant, Dianna Agron, Alex Pettyfer and Callan McAuliffe and is directed by D.J. Caruso and produced by Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg for DreamWorks Studios. The screenplay was adapted by Al Gough and Miles Millar (creators of “Smallville”).
While the movie is in production and before the second book in the series hits shelves, check out “I am Number Four.” You won’t be disappointed. — Kate Vendetta
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