Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Review: Another Pan by Daniel & Dina Nayeri

I knew going in that this was a sequel of sorts to Another Faust, which I totally missed out on. However, I was interested enough in the Peter Pan aspect to want to give it a shot. Considering that the jacket makes no mention that this is part of a series, I figured I was in the clear. And in a way, I was: only one character returns here from Another Faust, and she seems to stand up well enough on her own. However, when it came to actually enjoying the book...

Another PanAnother Pan is set at the exclusive Marlowe school in Manhattan, where largely discredited Egyptologist Professor Darling is a teacher who has just scored a great exhibit of Ancient Egyptian artifacts on loan from the British Museum. The artifacts relate to his life's work: uncovering a Death goddess that was an alternative to Anubis, and discovering the truth behind the legends in the Book of Gates - legends that are supposed to hold the key to immortality.

Roped into helping their father set up the exhibit, 16 year old Wendy and 13 year old John would rather be elsewhere - Wendy with her jock boyfriend and John developing his street cred. But when a charismatic new RA by the name of Peter shows up, who has an obsession of his own with the ancient book, Wendy and John eagerly join his quest. Wendy is drawn to the dangerous Peter, despite her boyfriend and her father's disapproval. John craves acceptance, and longs to be seen by Peter as being worthy of joining his Lost Boys gang. As the underworld begins to take hold of Marlowe, and a conniving assistant from the British Museum also closes in on the truth about the books, the two Darlings and Peter are in a race to complete their quest first - to find the secrets to immortality before death catches up with them, permanently.

Lurking at the periphery of most of the story is the new, decrepit school nurse, who was apparently the governess in Another Faust. It's clear that part of her story has been told elsewhere, but the lack of detail didn't seem to impede the story.

What did impede the story? The pacing and the characters. This was a slow, slow book. I wanted to give up several times, but forced myself to keep going, mostly because I have a huge weakness for Ancient Egypt (even though it seems the stories of the Book of Gates are totally new with no relation to myths that are currently known) and also because many of the nods back to Peter Pan were quite clever. The pacing felt off, and the overall writing felt stilted. The third person point of view wasn't used naturally, and there were weird line breaks within the chapters; instead of using a break to indicate a change in place or time, sometimes they would be used to denote a switch in POV character - but other times would be used traditionally. It pulled me out of the story every time.

Most of the characters were extremely flat. Simon Grin was practically a cartoon villain - I kept waiting for him to start muttering how he would have gotten away with it if it weren't for those meddling kids. Wendy and John were easily manipulated, though a lot more time was invested in John and his motivations so he was slightly more sympathetic. Really the most intriguing character for me was Peter, and that was probably me trying to fit this slick and handsome young adult into the story of the perpetual child I know.

In any re-telling, I love finding the ties back to the original story, and here many of them were quite clever. There's the obvious Barrie Auditorium (which still gets cleverness points, because Peter Pan was originally a play), but then little things like Peter always hanging out by windows, or checking out his shadow. His Lost Boys gang is also constantly plying Peter with happy thoughts (often things relating to youth or staying young) whenever he starts to get grumpy, though the rationale behind it is never explained.

But ultimately, this was a frustrating read. There was just enough intrigue with the myths and the quest that kept me turning the page, but I was always thinking ahead, hoping the book would finally end so I could move on to something else. While part of me is curious about what connections this had to the previous book, I don't want to have to wade through a similarly tedious book to get there, so I think this is my first and only encounter with the "Another" series.

1 comment:

Ms. Yingling said...

I felt the same way about this. Maybe it's just more of an introspective high school book.

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