Terry's Reviews > 47

47 by Walter Mosley
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's review
Jul 03, 08

bookshelves: cdcs-young-adult
Read in June, 2008

Just as bad as Runner by Carl Deuker, but in completely the opposite way--this novel aims high...but falls flat. Title refers to the number branded on a young slave, unnamed, who becomes a messiah for the enslaved and takes on a supernatural being. After an initial back-story that feels more educational than real (47's mom was slaveowner's wife's favorite slave--the slaveowner hates 47 but has promised to take care of him--real stuff, shunted off to the side), the protagonist meets a runaway slave named Tall John who has escaped to tell 47 of his destiny...to save the world fighting an alien creature. Yup, at this point the novel turns Sci-fi, and things fall apart. The novel just isn't Harry Potter; the Sci-fi element is undercooked and the plot begins to meander. In the end, the reader has no investment in the battle or, for that matter, any idea who or what the antagonist really is (a being named Wall is trying to get a hold of Tall John's Sun Ship to mine green ore; I swear the writing of the rest of the novel (the non-Sci-fi part) is much better). One really appreciates J.K. Rowling's ability to fully realize a completely new world, make it descriptive, realistic, and wondrous. Here the plot lands with a thud; it's as if there's a really good novel about these potentially interesting characters and the era of slavery trapped inside a Sci-fi plot, just to give the novel a forward motion (which doesn't really work). It would have been much more successful sticking with the characters of the time and their interactions. (For something that does pull off a period drama and fantasy/sci-fi, check out the TV show Carnivale).

At least this novel aims high, however, unlike Deuker's, which I read the same week. There are definitely points in which the writing turns didactic, but overall, had the plot taken a different turn, this could have been a good historical fiction character study.
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