Think of the things that would make a perfect book. Mutant rats? Check. Mutant MAN-EATING rats? Double check. Mutant man-eating rats headed from a dump on Staten Island towards Manhattan to feast on limitless flesh? Triple effing check. How could a book like this go wrong, especially when it's written by esteemed Pulitzer Prize winning young adult author Paul Zindel?
Let me count the ways.
As I alluded to, Rats is all about gigantic mutant man-eating rats that bred underneath a Staten Island dump that had been sealed over with asphalt. I guess it was the buildup of methane that caused them to mutate, but they escape and much calamity ensues. I'll admit that I picked up Rats partially because it is a paltry 203 pages, but I thought that with a set up like that, I couldn't miss. I'd have an easy entry into my 25 books AND have an enjoyable time. It sure starts out with a bang as a landfill operator on his last day on the job decides to take his BB gun out to kill some dump rats. Like something out of Creepshow, the rats descend on him until he is nothing but pieces. All of this is described in great gory detail as if this were a Stephen King or a Brian Keene novel.
Then the main characters got introduced and it was all downhill from there.
Because this is a young adult novel, the main characters are teenagers, the son and daughter of the widowed landfill director. When the rats start coming up through toilets and other pipes, they know something is wrong. What follows is a confusing and nearly unreadable mess that I'm not sure I would have even been terribly interested in as a 14-year-old boy. Plot lines show up and then are dropped. Things are never adequately explained. There's some business with their pet rat Surfer - does he or does he not communicate with the rats? The world may never know.
There is the inevitable meetup with the king rat but at that point, the book is so cartoonish I half expected him to be wearing a crown and holding a scepter. The ending is nonsensical and abrupt and left me scratching my head.
Needless to say, I don't recommend this book at all to anyone of any age. The gory parts were cool, but the parts with the whiny kids and the ineffective adults more than canceled that out.
I expected much more out of the man that gave us The Pigman.
(I know I promised the NaBloPoMo wrap up post tonight, but it's going to have to wait till tomorrow. The plague is descending on me and I want to do that one up right.)