Maximum Ride

Cover of Maximum Ride by James Patterson. Cover art of a teen girl with white hair by Larry Rostant.
Art by Larry Rostant. Click to read an excerpt!

Title: Maximum Ride

Author: James Patterson

Nutshell: Max and her flock are winged children, products of genetic experimentation. They’ve escaped their lab and are hiding out in the mountains when their past shows up. The enforcers from their lab appear suddenly, snatch the youngest, and run off, leaving the others panicked and scared. Max won’t leave any of them in the hands of evil, and so they launch a rescue mission, that turns into a cross-country flight. But their creators have secrets and surprises in store. As the children’s special gifts begin to develop, they must push them to the limit to keep their freedom.

Read-Alikes: Growing Wings, by Laurel Winter

Ramblings:

I didn’t read this book when I was a teen. I scanned it and mentally classed it as one of those books that takes an old concept and does absolutely nothing new with it, and decided to read something else.

Having now read it, I must revise my earlier judgement. This book is definitely doing something new. I just don’t know WHAT. I found myself bewildered, unable to tell what was randomly structured and what was deliberately misleading. Perhaps I am giving Mr. Patterson too much credit, and this really is just a grab-bag sort of plot, but I’d rather not think that. I have a LOT of questions for this book, but they’re questions I want to keep reading to answer, and I’m hoping that I’ll actually get answered.

The genetic experiment superpowers thing I understand, but the odd assortment of powers is perplexing. All six children have wings. One can read minds and influence decisions, and also breathe underwater. One has a textbook very-unhelpful-guide voice in her mind, and computers go haywire around her. One can read… impressions of the past? on electronics. The other three seem to be otherwise ordinary flying humans. Why are these their powers? I assume the others will develop abilities in later books but… such an odd mix. Are they supposed to have just been given all sorts of random genes to see what would stick? The powers also manifest as they are needed in the plot, giving a bit of a feeling that they’re being invented as the plot gets written into corners, but I think this is just a quirk of the style, not an actual problem.

Then, of course, there are the Erasers. They’re the enforcers and thugs for the evil scientists, a group of super-strong dog-men. Why dog-men? Maybe the scientists were just going through the animal families. Why are they called Erasers? I have no clue. They sound scary, but why does a coven of scientists need thing (people) erased? They certainly don’t erase anything (one) in the book, seeming to prefer to show up, taunt the children, shake them up, and then disappear. Very threatening, guys.

Last on my list of MAJOR ODDITIES is the plot itself. So the villains are experimenting on children… for what? They state that Max’s purpose is to save the world. From what? And the children are running away from the scientists and their Erasers, obviously, but Max talks about “getting to the bottom” of what’s happening, without any clear plan, without trying to draw any conclusions or make any connections. [Spoiler: when they do break into one of the labs and steal files, they print only ones pertaining to them with the stated intent of ‘finding their parents,’ a task for which they already had files, and which they had already abandoned as meaningless.] Plus Max has a voice which claims to be trying to guide her and teach her (So she can save the world.) but every time they do what it says, nothing in particular happens, and every time Max just does what she thinks is right, significant progress is made. (Toward what, I’m still not sure.)

If you can’t tell from my wording, I’m actually very invested in finding out answers. There are a few hints (and major spoilers) that make me think that most of the inconsistencies are deliberate plot choices, and will be revealed to have sound reasoning behind them. I’m only suspicious because I’ve been burned by an interesting book before. Consider me your advance scout, if you’re interested in Maximum Ride; Mr. Patterson has intrigued me into the second book.

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