23. Maximum Ride: The Final Warning by James Patterson. 256 p. Published march 2008.
I started reading the Maximum Ride series because I heard it was being remade into a manga and wanted to give Patterson a fair chance. Four books later and I sorely regret it.
If you haven’t heard of Maximum Ride, here’s the breakdown. Maximum (Max for short) is the leader of 6 mutant bird-children (and eventually one mutant talking dog). Their recombinant DNA has granted them superhuman strength, avian-esque wings, and various abilities ranging from mind reading to super-farts. The first three books take you through their treacherous youth as lab-experiments, their escape, recapture, betrayal by loved ones, escape, recapture (they do this combo a few times in each book), and the eventual final battle against the evil corporation that created them.
The Final Warning opens in the wake of this final showdown. After Max buries her half-brother, she and the flock, along with her parents, travel to Washington D.C. to meet with the government and see what is to become of them. Max and the rest promptly tell the politicians off and fly away. Max’s mother convinces her to take the flock on a trip with some environmental scientists to the south pole. While there, Max and the others hang with penguins and learn about global warming. Max and Fang (her second in command) are promptly separated from the rest when looking for Angel, the youngest, who has wandered off and fallen into a crevice in the ice with the dog. As Max and Fang save Angel, they are captured by a strange Frankenstein’s-Monster of a man and his robot minions. Max finds that the rest of the flock has been captured as well. The Flock is taken to Miami, which has been evacuated due to an imminent Category-4 hurricane. There they meet the Uber-Director, who has placed them up for auction to the highest bidding evil-power (various anonymous heads of state and industry). It’s up to Max, as always, to help the flock and foil this latest plot against them.
So, might as well start off positively. Patterson uses his gift for fast paced plot and thrilling characters to render The Final Warning a decent addition to the Maximum Ride series. And the new political slant to his work has shed light on an important issue (global warming). But in the end, this entire series is disappointing. His attempts at youthful jargon and internet lingo are pedantic and laughable. His plots consistently prey on the divide between teenagers and adults. Patterson supplements the reader’s imagination of this relationship with depictions of capture, subversion, and torture. And in the end he gives the reader a hollow victory, where the hero escapes to fight another day. Frankly, the one realistic lesson Patterson grants is this: it takes superhuman strength to achieve individual freedom and maintain it. And even then, you end up sleeping in the woods and scavenging out of dumpsters.
Patterson’s work has always benefited from his gift for using simple concepts and thrilling pacing to build a magnificent story. But the Maximum Ride novels read like a midlife crisis put to paper. Most men buy fast cars, find mistresses, and go to Vegas. Patterson writes teen fiction. And while his political statement adds originality to this overused genre of super-teens against the world, his apparent push for militant activism among today’s youth is shockingly irresponsible.
Patterson, stick to the adult thrillers.
Rating: 1 out of 5