The Norumbegan Quartet #3: The Empire of Gut and Bone (3) Hardcover – June 1, 2011
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THE GAME OF SUNKEN PLACES
“Highly original and enormously entertaining”
– The New York Times Book Review
* “Anderson builds to a climactic series of surprises that, exploding like fireworks, will almost certainly dazzle readers.”
– Publishers Weekly, starred review
* “Deliciously scary, often funny, this tour de force leaves one
marveling at Anderson's ability.”
– Booklist, starred review
THE SUBURB BEYOND THE STARS
* “A masterful tale.”
– Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“A fun and gripping read, with action, suspense, and creepy monsters that will keep readers up late – and make them want to keep the lights on.”
– School Library Journal
“A funny and eerie tale told with impeccable writing, and at
minimum, kids will come away a bit smarter just for having read it.”
About the Author
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Word from Norembega?
"Boring; I'd rather be dancing than listen to you prattle on about this."
Here we get an interesting change of pace, in that Gregory's resentment at losing the game comes out more, and, when in the company of people who are somewhat more like him, he begins to drift away from the intended mission of warning the Norumbegans. To help him in wandering off, the author introduces us to the darling, fair, empty-headed Gwynyfer, who ably competes with the other Norumbegans for the "Most Annoying Character Ever" award.
But seriously, she's a horrible person; I don't understand what Gregory sees in her (aside from her rocking curves and general flirtatiousness).
All in all, I really liked how the characters were drawn out in this installment; Brian got to do some actual sleuthing, Gregory got to party with the socialites, and Kalgrash got accused of murder and deactivated.
Fun times all around.
In addition to the characters, the setting is just freaking awesome. The Norumbegans were exiled to something referred to as "the Great Body", which is, appropriately, not very well defined. The whole thing is a great mystery to those inside, and though some have gone exploring within it, no one has found a mouth or other method of exit. The whole thing is very weird.
This third installment in the series dives right in, following Brian, Gregory and the mechanical troll Kalgrash as they attempt to explore the Norumbegan Plain, the realm created by the elfin race during a previous iteration of the Game that has now grown entirely out of control. Even as they attempt to find the imperial palace so they can warn the Norumbegans about the danger to themselves (not to mention the entire world), the evil alien Thusser Horde is hard at work in the mountains of Vermont, their malignant version of suburbia quickly threatening civilization.
As Brian and Gregory quickly discover, however, even though the Norumbegans are, on paper, the "good guys" in this endless game, there's still trouble at the heart of their kingdom. They have essentially enslaved their mechanicals, programming them to see and feel only pride for the Norumbegans themselves, dismantling them when they grow too powerful or too emotionally demanding. Now the country's leaders are smack in the middle of a conflict with the Mannequin Resistance, who "'got tired of being told we weren't real, we'd never know love or the beauty of a baby's laugh or a puppy with a single tear in its eye.'"
Brian and Gregory, who have not been programmed, can see the land for what it really is --- a slum-like country of dilapidated palaces and disgusting rivers that run with...what? Best not to think too hard about that, the boys figure, when they realize that they're actually stuck inside something called the Great Body, which is pretty much what it sounds like. Trapped inside a monumental Body that is humanlike, but not quite, the Norumbegans have imposed every measure of control they can, given that they're susceptible at any moment to being washed away by any number of bodily fluids: "ichor, yellow bile, the hard aliment, the sublime aliment, lux effluvium, and brunch." When an influential Regent is assassinated, can Brian and Gregory continue their mission to save the world without getting bogged down in pesky elfin politics? Or brunch, for that matter?
As in the previous books in this series, M. T. Anderson's wit and storytelling skills are on equal display in THE EMPIRE OF GUT AND BONE. Gregory and Kalgrash's infernal (but very, very funny) bickering provides much of the comic relief, as does Anderson's storytelling style itself. Added to the already ripe dynamic is a new one --- the addition of a fetching female character, Gwynyfer, who, it seems, will play a significant role in the quartet's final chapter as well.
Although THE EMPIRE OF GUT AND BONE lacks some of the urgency and intensity of the earlier installments, it's clearly laying the groundwork for what promises to be a bang-up finale. Here's hoping we won't have to wait too long to read it!
--- Reviewed by Norah Piehl