Gary Paulsen, author of several books of high adventure and survival--including the Newbery Honor winners Dogsong
, and The Winter Room
--this time brings readers a science fiction tale reminiscent of Planet of the Apes
. The Transall Saga
follows 13-year-old Mark on his first solo desert camping trip. After stepping into a mysterious beam of light, Mark is transported to another place--a strange and hostile world. As Mark tries to find his way back home, he learns to survive in this dangerous jungle, calling on reserves of strength he didn't know he had. Encountering wild creatures, primitive tribes, and a more advanced and warlike group of humans, the young protagonist is forced to grow up before he can return to the life he once knew. In the process, he becomes a slave, a warrior, and falls in love--all before the mystery of exactly where he is becomes clear.
As an adventure story and coming-of-age tale, The Transall Saga makes for gripping reading. While the account of Mark carving a new life in a place both strangely familiar and totally alien is cleverly imagined, the science fiction elements are, unfortunately, not nearly as well thought out. Still, fans of Paulsen's other works will find much to enjoy here, including vivid characters, exotic locations, and feral beasts that will not soon be forgotten. (Ages 10 to 15) --Neil Roseman
From Publishers Weekly
Paulsen (Brian's Winter) works his magic with another wilderness adventure yarn. But the wilderness this time isn't in this worldAor is it? That's what 13-year-old Mark tries to discover. On his first solo backpacking trip, crossing an old missile range in a desert out west, a mysterious blue light transports him to a thick red jungle under a sulfurous sky. There the struggle for survival soon supersedes the quest for the route home. Paulsen draws on such Saturday-matinee staples as poisonous insects, deadly quicksand and murderous beasts; Mark even swings on vines with a friendly monkey-like creature (and this is just the first 30 pages). Yet the plot feels fresh, thanks to the author's taut, unsentimental storytelling (Mark's Tarzan-esque antics, for example, result in broken ribs). Mark grows to manhood in the four or so years of his sojourn; the narrative, meanwhile, continues at a hurtling pace. The teen saves a girl's life, then joins her tribe of forest-dwellers; later, he is captured with them and enslaved by the more technologically advanced Tsook people. There are raids, escapes and brushes with the Tsook overlord, the Merkon, who takes a frighteningly keen interest in Mark. Readers may figure out who the Merkon is long before the protagonist does, but no matterAthe action along the way (including just the right dash of romance) is never less than enthralling. While the story is self-contained, the end points to a sequel, so, with any luck, another installment is on the way. Ages 12-up.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.