Sunday, 6 January 2013

I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

I picked up I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore as part of Penguin's "Thriller Trilogy", partly because the movie wasn't bad and piqued my interest. Let me open by saying the movie was better. I posit that even the science was slightly less violated in the movie, and this is Hollywood we're talking about. It was also the last book I read in 2012.

In I Am Number Four, Lorien, a planet which is smaller than Earth but for some reason hosted aliens similar to humans and had similar gravity, is attacked and obliterated by evil aliens from another planet. The Loriens fail to defend themselves, somehow, despite having spaceships and magic powers and despite the fact that the battle is fought on the surface, pretty much had to had but with bonus hellbeasts. Also, the flashbacks to the apocalyptic war are exceedingly trite and shallow. Somehow we're supposed to believe that Four gains a whole lot of understanding and compassion just from watching a battle? But I'm getting ahead of myself.

When the planet was lost, the Loriens managed to smuggle out nine children and their (non-magical) protectors to Earth. Before they left, a plothole spell was cast so that the nine children couldn't be killed except in a specific order. The story opens ten years later with child number three being killed and Four's guardian makes them move to a new town with new identities. As soon as Four walks into his new school, he gets a crush on a girl and targeted by the school bully-jock. It's also the day his magic powers start to awaken and the day he (and to a lesser extent, his guardian) start making poor decisions that lead to a confrontation with evil aliens by the end of the book.

I would definitely call it science fantasy of maybe superhero fiction, but I've seen a few superhero movies that gave a more significant nod to physics than I Am Number Four did (including its own movie which left out some of the WTFier bits). I'm not a fan of science fiction without any accurate science at all, so that didn't help. But the action isn't too bad and I didn't find the book actively offensive. The writing is distinctly pedestrian with stilted dialogue and bursts of summarised conversation which were less fun to read through than the proper dialogue (eg "I told her blah and she said that blah and I agreed").

I wanted to like I Am Number Four, but I didn't by the end. The beginning drew me in, but it went downhill from the first Lorien flashback and didn't manage to climb out again. It didn't make me all that angry, though, which is a bit surprising given that it did drive me to skimming pages of battle. In the end it was entertaining enough to earn it an extra half-star.

I think I Am Number Four would be enjoyed by readers who like action and don't like to think too hard about what they're reading. Or younger teens who are less judgemental of quality. I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more when I was 12 or 13.

3 / 5 stars

First published: 2010, Penguin
Series: The Lorien Legacies, book 1 of 3
Format read: ebook
Source: Penguin Thriller Trilogy (not actually a trilogy, but a pack of three books), purchased from iBooks on impulse


  1. Well, this series is VERY popular at my school. You are right to say that teens are different in what appeals to them. Often, I get a review copy of a book which I don't care for, but remind myself it wasn't written for me. It was written for my students and they will love it. :-)

    1. I can see where the popularity comes from and, quite frankly, the elements that make it a good movie (although, others might beg to differ on the quality of the movie). I probably would've been more forgiving if it hadn't had those dreadful flashbacks. It's a pity, though; it's not like there aren't plenty of more thoughtful and better thought-out YA books out there.

  2. I refused to read this book after finding out the backstory: namely that known con artist and liar James Frey conned someone into writing it for him, paid the dude a measly $200 for his trouble, and claimed all the rest of the profits for himself. For shame!

    1. I completely missed that news when it came out. Glad I got it at discount and didn't buy any sequels.