Book Review: I Am Number Four, Pittacus Lore (2010)

July 27th, 2012 11:49 am by Kelly Garbato

Four stars for I Am Number Four

four out of five stars

Not so much a review as a random collection of thoughts, but you get the idea!

  • The basic premise of the Lorien Legacies series is this: we are not alone. Besides Earth, multiple planets capable of sustaining life exist in the universe. Among these are Lorien and Mogadore, whose contrasting pasts and presents reflect two possible futures for Earth.

    Much like Earth today, in its early history Lorien was faced with ecological collapse. Caused by greed and fueled by rapid technological advancements, the Loric people were quickly depleting their planet’s resources, driving it ever closer to ruin. Rather than continue on this self-destructive path, the Loriens chose another way: they simplified their society, living sustainably and in harmony with nature. (Just what this entails isn’t clear. For example, there’s no indication that the Loriens are/were vegans, nor do they seem to have renounced their “ownership” of nonhuman animals.)

    In thanks, the planet endowed the Loriens with special gifts. While all Loriens are stronger, faster, and more powerful than the average human, roughly half of the population have additional, supernatural abilities: Telekinesis. The ability to control the elements. Invisibility. The gift of flight. Imperviousness to fire. They are members of the Garde, the superhuman – or rather super-Lorien – protectors of the planet. Behind the scenes, the Cêpan manage the society and act as mentors to young Gardes who are just discovering their Legacies. At the time of our hereos’ births, Lorien is a veritable Eden, with everyone coexisting in peace and harmony.

    Mogadore offers a terrifying glimpse of the road not taken by Lorien. Faced with a similar fate, the Mogadorians deplete their planet’s resources, turning it into a barren hellscape – and then set out to conquer other planets and plunder their resources as well. The first of these is Lorien, which is caught with its guard down and is taken easily. Save for a lucky few, all of the Loric people are slaughtered. Lorien is laid to waste.

    Obvious moral is obvious, though no less true. We are at a crossroads; will we emulate the peaceable Lorien, or – be it through, antipathy, stubbornness, or privilege – go the way of Mogadore? Human history, rife as it is with genocide, colonization, slavery, and wars of convenience, does not speak well of us.

  • Nine young Gardes and their Cêpans manage to escape to the nearest life-sustaining planet: Earth. For the past decade, they’ve been in hiding, waiting for the children to come of age – and their Legacies to develop. The Mogadorians walk among us as well. Their immediate goal is to find and kill all nine Gardes, for fear that they’ll one day seek retribution. Perhaps more importantly, the Garde may interfere with the Mogadorians’ long-term plans to wipe out the human race and claim Earth as their own.

    Because of a spell hastily cast on the children before they departed, as long as they live apart, they can only be killed in order: One through Nine. In the ten-year interim, Mogadorian soldiers have hunted down and killed three of the Garde. John Smith – Number Four, the narrator of this story – is the next in line. We meet John as he and his Cêpan, Henri, are fleeing from Florida to Paradise, Ohio, spurred on by news of Three’s death. (Every time a Garde dies, his or her death is manifested on the bodies of the others in the form of a scar, a small ring around one ankle.)

    Population 5,243. To most of its residents, Paradise is anything but. To John, forever on the run, it becomes home. He meets a girl – Sarah – and falls in love. (No small thing, as the Loric are a monogamous people – they mate for life. All two hundred years of it.) He also finds a best friend – his first and only – in conspiracy theorist and fellow outcast Sam Goode. He begins to develop his Legacies, and to learn more about his home planet – including its destruction, which he witnesses in brutal detail. All the while, he’s hunted by the Mogadorians … as well by his allies, other members of the Garde.

  • Written in a simple, straightforward, mostly un-flowery style, I Am Number Four is compulsively readable. The language is similar to how a teenager might speak – a highly intelligent, exceptionally talented teenager from another planet, but a teenager nonetheless. The short chapters will trick you into reading ten before bedtime, when you only meant to indulge in one or two. Personal experience.
  • Having seen the movie a few months ago, from what I can remember of it, the film is a rather faithful adaptation of the book. Some of the scenes are condensed and at least one plot line is manufactured, but it’s pretty close – especially considering that the book weighs in at 440 pages and the film runs under two hours. If you enjoyed the movie, you’ll like the book, and vice versa. This is a book that was made to see the big screen, is it not?
  • The whole Halloween hayride ambush thing doesn’t seem as rapey in the book as it does in the movie. The scene feels much more threatening in the film; I came away with the impression that, had John not managed to escape from his assailants and come to her aid, Mark may have sexually assaulted Sarah – a theme definitely not present in the book. Perhaps I misread it, though; in the movie, the scene is so chaotic and confusing that I could have easily misinterpreted what was actually happening.
  • Overall, I prefer the book because, unsurprisingly, it offers so much more information about Lorien: the planet, its people, their customs, and the war with the Mogadorians. Its a level of detail that’s hard to translate in film, especially when working from a first person narrative.
  • In this vein, Henri’s discussions with John about love – specifically, whether humans can love the same way that Loriens do, and whether a Lorien’s love for a human could possibly rival the emotions they feel for fellow Loriens – are alone worth the read, mostly absent are they from the film. The monogamy trope (Is it a trope proper? Its polar opposite, the Free Love Future, is a trope!) is especially fascinating: dewy-eyed and romantic, yet entirely impractical. What happens if your one love doesn’t love you back? What if she dies young – do you spend the rest of your life alone and pining for her? How is this ideal? What if you fall for a human, in all his jealous pettiness? What then?

    And yet, despite all of the obvious pitfalls, the idea of One True Love prevails. Funny, that.

  • At first blush, the Pittacus Lore gag (i.e., the author as one of the missing Loric elders) is a little cheesy – but I’m willing to revise my opinion if it results in a satisfying story arc.
  • The movie tie-in edition of the book includes a preview of The Power of Six – the first two chapters of which are inexplicably (But happily! At least it’s one of the female Garde?) narrated by Number Seven – and Sarah Hart’s Personal Journal, which is a little goofy (Diaries don’t read like this, guys! Complete sentences, feh.) but adds extra detail to some of the events in I Am Number Four. I’ve already ordered the rest of the series – The Power of Six, the forthcoming The Rise of Nine, and I Am Number Four: The Lost Files: The Legacies, a collection of novellas that’s also tbr – on Amazon.
  • I didn’t realize it at the time (obvs!), but Number Six was whitewashed in the film adaptation.

    Check it:

    Image: a movie poster for I Am Number Four featuring three white, blonde-haired young adults – a man flanked by two women.
    Left to right: Teresa Palmer, Alex Pettyfer, and Dianna Agron.
    ——————————

    The young woman on the left – Number Six – is introduced thus:

    “It’s a girl, every bit as strong as I am, maybe even stronger. I don’t understand. Her grip loosens and I turn and face her. We take each other in. Above the glow of my hands I see a face slightly older than mine. Hazel eyes, high cheekbones, long dark hair pulled into a ponytail, a wide mouth and strong nose, olive-toned skin.” [page 353 in the movie tie-in edition]

    In contrast, Sarah – the woman on the right – has “straight blond hair past her shoulders, ivory skin, high cheekbones, and soft blue eyes.” [page 25] Her skin is again described as having an “ivory look” on page 336, as well as a “smooth porcelain feel” [page 271]. The blueness of her eyes are stressed throughout the book, particularly as the colors around her enhance their color.

    Whereas Six – her skin, her hair, her eyes – should be much darker than Sarah, their features are nearly identical: light, white skin and long blonde hair. Hollywood strikes again. (See, e.g., Katniss, Haymitch, and Gale – not to mention most of District 12 in The Hunger Games; The Last Airbender; The Fox in Wanted; and every film depicting a white Jesus – to name just a few.)

    Granted, the olive-to-alabaster whitewashing isn’t as egregious as it is in, say, The Hunger Games – where race and class inequities are integral to the storyline – but it’s disappointing and unacceptable nonetheless. With Six, the studio had a chance to give a strong supporting role (one with the possibility of blooming into a lead role in the future) – that of a hero – to a young woman of color. The type of actor who, let’s face it, isn’t exactly tripping over positive roles. Instead they chose a white woman. Again. No. Just, no.

  • Likewise, I wonder how they’ll handle the casting of Numbers Seven and Nine, should there be a sequel(s). As of the first installation (in a planned series of six), the Mogadorians have tracked Number Nine to Argentina; and we learn in the preview to The Power of Six that Number Seven, Marina, has been living in an orphanage in Spain since arriving on Earth with her Cêpan, Adelina. Since the goal is to hide – to blend in and remain inconspicuous – it stands to reason that the Loriens would move to areas (cities, states, countries) with populations that look similar to themselves. Hence a possibly Latina and Spanish Seven and Nine, no?

    Or not: Number Three – a young man living in Kenya – is played by a white actor. (Greg Townley, who also appeared as Chloe Grace Moretz’s stunt double in Kick-Ass. WTF!) According to Wikipedia, Non-Africans – Arabs, Indians, and Europeans – make up just 1% of the Kenyan population. So much for blending in. (Then again, it’s just as well that they didn’t cast a poc as Three. Given that he appears in all of four pages of the book – killed off in the first chapter – this would be nothing but the most blatant of tokenism.)

  • While discussing the intricacies of human-Loric love with John, Henri explains that Loriens have been traveling to Earth for centuries, visiting and sometimes falling in love with humans. The children borne of these unions are usually “exceptional and gifted […] Some of the greatest figures in Earth’s history were actually the product of humans and the Loric, including Buddha, Aristotle, Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Newton, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein. Many of the ancient Greek gods, who most people believe were mythological, were actually the children of the humans and Loric, mainly because it was much more common then for us to be on this planet and we were helping them develop civilizations. Aphrodite, Apollo, Hermes, and Zeus were all real, and had one Loric parent.” [page 275]

    I guess the gene for super-special Loric powers is carried primarily on the Y chromosome, eh? Seriously, where are the accomplished ladies?

  • From the time of their first meeting, and throughout the book, John refers to his dog-friend Bernie Kosar as “he,” never “it” – thus tacitly recognizing the beagle’s sentience, his personhood. He is a someone, not a something. In contrast, the Mogadorians are “its,” even though their humanoid appearance and intelligence is more suggestive of humans than nonhumans.

    Unfortunately, once the Mogadorian “beasts” are introduced at story’s end, John reverts to objectifying them the same way he does the Mogadorians (although seemingly not without just cause), suggesting that his pronoun choices are perhaps more about othering the enemy than widening his circle of compassion to include nonhumans.

  • But wait! John is able to communicate telepathically with nonhuman animals – both those born on Lorien, as well as their less impressive (read: superanimal) Earth-born counterparts – suggesting that nonhumans are indeed intelligent, or at least intelligent enough to transmit thoughts and feelings in a way that more “advanced” animals understand. Bernie Kosar, in particular, is capable of grasping complex concepts like deceit [page 432] and bravery [page 418]. Born as he was on Lorien, Bernie Kosar may be an exceptional animal – but to speciesists, he’s still “just” an animal. Not human (Loric). Still really damned smart.
  • Speaking of Bernie Kosar, how in the worlds did John not recognize him for who he was? Diligence, John, diligence! That friendly gecko could have been a spy cam, ferchrissakes!
  • James Fry’s forte? Clearly fiction. Oh snap!
  • Well, assuming he actually wrote this. There’s a controversy.

    (An abridged version of this review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined.)

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  • 4 Responses to “Book Review: I Am Number Four, Pittacus Lore (2010)”

    1. Book Review: The Power of Six, Pittacus Lore (2012) » V for Vegan: easyVegan.info Says:

      […] recently read – and thoroughly enjoyed – I Am Number Four, I promptly ordered the three other books in the Lorien Legacies series (The […]

    2. Book Review: I Am Number Four: The Lost Files: The Legacies, Pittacus Lore (2012) » V for Vegan: easyVegan.info Says:

      […] it’s not quite up to par with I Am Number Four, The Lost Files: The Legacies is still an improvement over books one and two in the series – […]

    3. fuck yeah reading: 2012 books » V for Vegan: easyVegan.info Says:

      […] Am Number Four, Pittacus Lore (2010); reviewed here […]

    4. Book Review: The Rise of Nine, Pittacus Lore (2012) » V for Vegan: easyVegan.info Says:

      […] I quite enjoyed I Am Number Four, the later books in the series have been rather disappointing. With a focus on action over […]

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