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The Beasties
William Sleator
Dutton Children's Books, 191 pages

A review by Neil Walsh

Not having been previously acquainted with the works of Sleator, I found this to be a disappointing introduction. I was left with the distinct impression that I had read a second draft. The story is workable, but not quite there yet. It's almost as if Sleator, writing for a young adult audience, isn't giving his readers much credit -- they won't notice these plot holes. To heck with another draft; just publish it.

The story is watery cardboard that could stand some real stiffening up. But what bothered me the most, was the characters. A colony of goblin-like creatures, living underground hunting for victims upon which to perform unorthodox surgery -- amputation of limbs and extremities to be re-attached to someone else. Sure I can willingly, happily even, suspend my disbelief to encompass a world where this happens. But I had real trouble buying into the motivations, decisions and actions of the 15-year-old narrator and his 10-year-old sister. It just didn't ring true for me.

There's a vague ecological message to the book, but even that falls flat. Logging companies clear cutting some remote forest provide the backdrop for the story, and apparently even the driving force behind the actions of the beasties (the demented goblin surgeons). But if the author ever had a clear idea of the actual connection, he doesn't impart this to the reader. I'd have to say that the real ecological crime in this book is that trees died so that it could be published before it was ready. One more tree, several more drafts, and it might have been worthwhile.

Copyright © 1997 by Neil Walsh

Neil Walsh is the Reviews Editor for the SF Site. He lives in contentment, surrounded by books, in Ottawa, Canada.

The Beasties
William Sleator Related Links
William Sleator is the author of The Night the Heads Came, Interstellar Pig, and many other novels. He divides his time between Boston, Massachusetts, and Bangkok, Thailand.

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