Sunday, August 08, 2010

No Sequel Necessary

Today on the trip to take my son to camp, we listened to the audio book, Hatchet by Gary Paulson. I very much enjoyed the story, so much so in fact that even after dropping my son off, I found I couldn't wait an entire week when I picked him up again to listen to the rest of the tale. I'd checked the audio book out of the library thinking he might like it (I'm forever trying to find books he will like) and that I would probably have to suffer through it, but it turns out this is a great read for all ages.

The story revolves around a 13 year old boy named Brian who finds himself stranded in the Canadian wilderness after the pilot who is flying Brian to visit his newly divorced father suffers a heart attack and dies. All alone, lost, badly battered from the plane crash and with nothing more than a small hatchet his mother had given him, Brian has to figure out how to survive. Somehow he has to manage to find water and food, build a shelter, and protect himself from wild animals ranging from what at first seems like a harmless skunk all the way up to a black bear and even a mean moose. Through the experience, Brian comes to learn that the only one he has to rely on is himself but perhaps that's enough.

The story is fabulously told, although Paulson tends to repeat words and phrases for effect which I think would be fine when reading (your eyes would just skip over those repetitions, I imagine) but that tend to become tiresome when read out loud. Too, a sort of mini sub-plot involving Brian's parents' recent divorce and the fact that Brian had witnessed his mother kissing another man and was keeping this horrible secret kind of led nowhere and felt wholly intrusive to the main story. Still, the fabulous actor Peter Coyote narrated, and his gravely voice really fit the rough story, and by the time it was over I found a running parallel between Brian's journey and the journey all mankind seems to have taken from the discovery of fire all the way through modern times.

The rest of this entry after the break contains discussion that would SPOIL the ending of Hatchet, so if you don't want to be SPOILED (and I recommend not being spoiled), then stop reading now. Stand warned - SPOILERS AHEAD!

When I got home, I got on line to learn more about this book, and I discovered that there are actually three "sequel" books that follow Brian after he is rescued. And to be honest, I was kind of disappointed about this.

Now, I do admit that I would love for Paulson to have written a bit more on the ending of Hatchet. I wanted to know how Brian handled returning to civilization, to get a description of his reunion with his parents and how it felt to eat real food again. As it was, the ending did contain an epilogue that gave a tiny glimpse into Brian's future, but it simply wasn't enough after the harrowing ordeal I'd gone through with this character.

Even so, I can't imagine that any sequels would be very good. The point of the first book was to see what would happen when a young boy is thrust into the wilderness, alone, unprepared and with no hope of rescue. That story was told and told well, and there really isn't any more story left. I can only imagine any sequels would put Brian back into similar situations, and that would stretch my disbelief too far. Could it happen to a kid once, that he got stranded in the wilderness? Sure. Twice? I don't think so.

These sequels might be amazing. They might be great books. But I don't want to read them. I'm afraid they'll do what the final two Twilight books did and ruin the first for me irrevocably. I'd rather just think of Hatchet as a fantastic stand alone book.

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