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Alosha by Christopher Pike

01/07/2005. Contributed by Jennifer Howell

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pub: TOR. 301 page hardback. Price: $18.95 (US), $26.95 (CAN). ISBN: 0-765-31098-8.

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Ah, Christopher Pike. You have to have been a certain age in the 90s to have that name really mean something. That is, young enough to have read, somewhere in between all those 'Point Horrors', his bizarre little fantasy/horror tales that always started off with such intriguing premises and then went somewhere else entirely.

Ok, you're inclined to be a little more forgiving at 14 than you are a decade later, but that one about the video that could tape the future still sticks in my head, ('The Eternal Enemy', according to Amazon) and the one where they were all reincarnations of Greek gods ('The Immortal', I think!) and I loved 'Remember Me'. Must still have that somewhere...

My point? I do have one, and it mainly involves the sheer depressing inevitability of trying to revisit anything you loved when you were much, much younger. Because, however forgiving I was at 14, I'm fairly certain the novels weren't quite so bad as 'Alosha' back then.

It revolves around Ali Warner, a 13 year-old with long maroon hair (does anyone have naturally maroon coloured hair?!) with a penchant for environmental causes who starts out trying to stop the logging on the mountain behind her town. Of course, up in the mountain she proceeds to get chased by what can only be Bigfoot. Except, it might be a troll and that incredibly annoying little Irish midget she meets can only be a leprechaun. Throw in some 'dark fairies' and a plot by 'elementals' to take over the world. Oh and that other Pike plot staple, the protagonist who isn't who they thought they were and neither is someone else close to them...

It took about three paragraphs before I was skimming the book jacket and publisher details to find the little hint I must have missed the first time: the one that said this was actually a cunningly mislabelled Young Adult book in disguise because going after an appropriate audience, you'd think they'd want to mention it somewhere. What really gets me is that this is published by TOR under an adult imprint, as far as I can tell. All the critic quotes on the back are for Pike's other actual adult books ('The Cold One' and 'Season Of Passage' for example) and TOR certainly haven't published any of his Young Adult work by the look of things.

I'm curious as to what TOR gains by selling this in the adult section. I can pretty much guarantee that nothing with a 13 year-old protagonist, fairies and an annoying little cliché of a leprechaun actually belongs there by any stretch of the imagination and it's not like children's books don't sell. The level of writing, which seems aimed at particularly dense children going by the way every little detail of nuance is thoroughly explained to death, certainly doesn't lend it to being read by anyone above the age of, um, 15. At a pinch. Having said that, I keep running across distinctly adult books in the fantasy genre whose reading age is stuck somewhere around that, sad as it may seem.

'Alosha' is just childish in a very real sense: barely teenage protagonists find some nasty fairies out to conquer the world. Um, OK. Weirdly enough, it reads like it's aimed at even younger readers than the wonderfully garish supernatural horror/thrillers Pike used to churn out to a devoted readership - mainly because they were rather good and didn't pretend to be anything other than what they were. I'm seriously doubting anyone is going to be remembering 'Alosha' so fondly in another ten years' time.

Jennifer Howell

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