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The Nameless World (The Nameless World Series) Paperback – October 7, 2013
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The young protagonist is afraid to fight back, but when the bullies throw his favorite book into a mud puddle during recess he snaps and launches a rock at the biggest bully's head. A teacher comes at the sound of the bully's distressed cries and Noah hides behind a large oak tree.
It is there that he finds his missing science teacher's glasses and two mysterious puzzle pieces that transport him to another world. As Noah travels through this world trying to get back home he makes new friends, discovers an ecosystem with life-giving rivers and rescues native creatures from being eaten by bigger beasts. He also discovers that the humans of this world aren't well liked by the native creatures - for a very good reason: they are destroying the delicate ecosystem along with the creatures who depend on it.
Noah must find his way through this world to the Chatalbin who can send him home, and to do this he must find the courage within himself to brave the nameless world.
The Nameless World is an exciting and thought-provoking adventure that middle grade readers are sure to love.
One day, when Mr. Porter is mysteriously absent from the classroom, Noah stands up to Kevin and the knock-on effects lead him to discover two puzzle pieces that transport him to the titular Nameless World.
This new and fantastically imagined world is a wonderful place filled with the strangest of creatures and vegetation - some of which can even talk. Problems not dissimilar to those of our own world are starting to take their toll in `The Nameless World' as nature suffers at the hands of those who seek to plunder its wildlife for their own pleasure.
It seems that destiny has a hero's adventure in mind for Noah as he is quickly pulled into helping those that want to save their world as he seeks his way back home. Noah must dig deep to overcome his fears and do what he knows is right before attempting to leave his new-found friends.
I was pulled quickly into this story and found myself rooting for Noah every step of the way. There is a clear moral message which is delivered without lecturing and which never interferes with the reader's enjoyment.
It is rare to find books for children as well written and descriptively crafted as this one. If you are a parent and wish to treat your child to a riveting read while encouraging them to consider the effects of the way we treat our planet then this is the book for you.
I highly recommend `The Nameless World'.
For one thing, the book struck a note for me more in tune with Narnia and perhaps the Hobbit, with a side-serving of Wonderland. This, I appreciate, is suggestive of some extensive borrowing, but all stories are the sum of borrowed goods and they're best measured in terms of the extent to which they add up to something new. Here, what we have are mostly echoes of these other stories and Payer-Smith does bring her own perspective to this tale of young well-meaning lad, Noah, who drops through a portal to the eponymous world with no name.
Its key strengths lie in the vivid colour and imagination with which the author has forged her particular brand of otherworld and there's no small degree of cleverness in the way she turns our ecosystem on its head while proceeding to tell a story that essentially deals with some very straightforward environmental issues. It's reasonably subtle with it, not hammering the message into tender young skulls, so in my inexpert estimation it might stand a fair chance of getting youngsters interested in green concerns at an early age.
Where it was less successful for me was in some of the dialogue and, more especially, in some of the internal monologue from Noah. Occasionally I'd find words like `induced' and I could be wrong - sure, I used to be a kid myself, but it's so long ago it's difficult to remember with any certainty - but it seems very grown-up language in the head of a young boy. I've known kids who were advanced for their age, but that's not the impression painted here. If I had to pin it down, it seems like Noah is not portrayed as the wrong age, but as a kid from a different era.
There's something of an old-fashioned flavour to the language overall, which is possibly part of why there's that reminiscence of traditional children's classics and there's nothing intrinsically wrong in that. It's hard to see how this could have been laced with a more contemporary vibe without completely altering the tone. Besides, there's a reason those classics have endured and are still read today.
My other niggle is over the shifting character viewpoints through the course of a scene. As a writer I'm very into colouring prose with the perspective of a single character and I'd rather have scenes experienced through one pair of eyes, whereas here we're given insights into the minds of most of the players. You'd think allowing us inside everyone's head whenever it suited would allow for a more immersive experience, but that kind of omniscience works the opposite for me. A tale that involves a young boy being catapulted into a strange and wonderful world might benefit hugely from being told exclusively from the boy's point of view.
Still, Payer-Smith has populated her world with a cast of weird and wonderful creatures and characters. By far and away the most engaging is Grelgor, who starts out as brilliantly surly and contrary - unhelpful and argumentative in an entertaining way, with nods to some of Alice's colourful encounters. As with The Hobbit, Wonderland and The Lion, Witch And The Wardrobe - and Oz, come to that - the plot is not complicated. It's a quest, with the principal focus on finding a way home - there and back again - and of course the hero's presence in this exotic land affects a change for the better. Alongside all the colour there's a great deal of charm and the descriptions are sure to feed a young imagination with clear pictures of the landscapes and the creatures to be found there. As well as, perhaps, inspiring them to create their own - possibly named - worlds.
For that reason alone, this book deserves better than dismissal.