Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Book Review: Albert of Adelaide by Howard Anderson

Author Anderson Takes Readers Into A Fantastical Australia

by Sarah Hayes of the Forum

"Is this the place?"
The wombat looked at the pieces of desert being blown around them and took the pipe out of his mouth. "I hope not."
"What I meant was, is this the place where things haven't changed and Australia is liked it used to be?"
The wombat thought for a long time before he answered. "If you mean somewhere animals run around without any clothes on while being chased by people with spears and boomerangs, the answer is no. It's not bloody likely that you'd find old Jack in a place like that. (Albert of Adelaide, page 12, paperback ed.)
Albert of Adelaide is what would happen if someone took the writing quirks of Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien, dropped them into the harsh terrain of the Australian Outback, made all the characters talking animals who cuss up a storm, and added copious amounts of booze, bar fights and shotguns. This is the world author Howard Anderson has crafted for his readers, and it is unlike what most students will probably read this year.
The story of Albert of Adelaide follows the title character, Albert, a platypus with only an empty soda bottle to his name. Having recently broken out of the Adelaide Zoo, he is searching for the fabled "Old Australia", where animals still act like animals and can find freedom for themselves. Like any good journey, Albert doesn't find what he's looking for without running into a few speed bumps, such as a pyromaniac wombat named Jack and a chain-swinging "demon" from San Francisco named TJ. Off the bat, this is not your typical fellowship.
Unlike most well-known stories featuring talking animals as the main cast, the animals in Albert are not virtuous or even agreeable. They fight, get into vicious turf wars, and do a lot of hard drinking. Anderson does not shy away from showing readers the after effects of the various groups' gunfights, describing the bodies of the animals on the desert floor in such a way that it's difficult not to feel something for the fallen creatures.

One of the strengths of Albert is Anderson's writing style. It's hard and sparse but still packs an emotional punch when necessary, such as battle scenes and moments of great upheaval for poor Albert. Anderson also describes, in detail, the landscape of the Outback which Albert and his associates are walking through. Even if readers have never seen a photograph of what Australia looks like, Anderson effectively paints a picture of the land and the kinds of animals and plant life one would come across if they were following Albert's webbed footsteps.
The story of Albert is a hard one, and Albert the platypus' journey is no easy trip. He often has to rely upon his wits and the poisoned spurs on his back feet in order to defend himself against the Outback's more antagonistic four limbed residents. It's a violent and dirty world Albert finds himself in, much different from the zoo cage he ran out of, but through everything he still finds hope that somewhere out there is the “Old Australia” he dreams of. Readers of Albert will soon find themselves cheering on the titular platypus and hoping to find this mythical place alongside him.
Students can order paperback or hardcover copies of Albert of Adelaide from the Florissant Valley Community College book store or at their local book store. The Flo Valley book store is open Monday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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