If I was a TV producer I would immediately snatch up the rights for Michael Grant’s novel Gone, and turn it into a mini-series . . .

Gone is a kick ass sci-fi/fantasy novel aimed at ages 12 and up, but also something which adult readers ought to appreciate too. (Adults read Harry Potter books too, don’t they?) Gone can be best described as Lord of the Flies meets X-Men. There’s a dash of Heroes and Stephen King’s The Stand thrown into the mix as well. If handled properly it’d make for the sort of thing which the SciFi Channel ought to be showing, but isn’t.

One morning all the people older than 14 living in the small Californian coastal town of Perdido Beach simply disappear into thin air. They don’t even go “poof” – they simply blink from existence. As if the disappearance of all the adults aren’t bad enough already – Gone makes some serious turns into Lord of the Flies territory – there are all kinds of other mysterious going-ons taking place.

(In case you weren’t paying attention in your English class: Lord of the Flies is a novel by William Golding in which a group of school children are stranded on a deserted tropical island following an airplane crash. In the absence of parents and authority figures they all slowly descend into barbarism and cruelty; Catholic author Golding’s rather politically incorrect point being that all people – even as children - are intrinsically sinful. The Biblical Eden wouldn’t have lasted and because of man’s inherently violent and aggressive nature, paradise or utopia for that matter is impossible. Ironically Lord of the Flies was published in the same year as J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, a novel which supplies a rather more naïve view on the nature of Evil.)

"It's Lord of the Flies meets X-Men . . ."

For starters a mysterious transparent “barrier” has isolated the entire town and surrounding area from the outside world. As if the dwindling food supplies and school bullies being jerks aren’t enough, some of the kids are actually mutating and developing “superpowers” of sorts. The novel’s hero, named Sam, can shoot beams of fire from his hands for instance. Another kid can selectively control gravity; another can run extremely fast – faster than the human eye can follow.

Then there are the out-of-town kids from a snooty private school led by the charismatic Caine and his sadistic sidekick Drake (with names like these, how can they be anything else but villains?) who wants to take over the town. Further complicating issues are the animals – coyotes, birds, etc. – which are mutating as well. Oh, and did we mention the evil supernatural-like presence calling itself “The Darkness” hanging out on the outskirts of town?

Fast-paced with clear villains and good guys but always heading into unexpected directions, Gone will really make for a great four hour TV mini-series of two two-hour episodes each. If anything counts against it, it is that clocking in at 550 pages one expects some sort of ending. Instead Gone reads like a pilot episode for TV series with more episodes to follow. There will certainly be another book or two in the series, but any TV producers might consider wrapping things up more satisfactorily than they are in the novel though.

If you like Stephen King, then you’ll enjoy Gone even though it is better-paced than any new Stephen King novel I’ve read in the past decade or so. Gore is also kept to a minimum even though you’d be surprised at some of the issues which the novel does tackle (sex is however a no-no). Like Stephen King, it is also a matter of great build-up but with somewhat disappointing payoff.

But with the right cast and some decent special effects, Gone will be a hit. Maybe making the kids slightly older for the TV series would work mind you, seeing as how bad child actors can be. But until some TV producer sees the light, there is Grant’s novel which makes for the sort of entertaining and light read you take with you to the beach over the summer holidays. If you’re expecting something more profound on human nature then Gone will most likely disappoint, but if you want a great page-turner then check it out. Even if you are older than 14 . . .


by Michael Grant


Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 576 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen (June 24, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0061448761
ISBN-13: 978-0061448768




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