In the final book in the Maximum Ride trilogy, it’s do-or-die time for Max and her flock: the bird kids versus the badguys. Unfortunately, tension in the flock leads to the team splitting up, the boys going with Fang and the girls with Max. While the boys are off dealing with killer robots and rallying an army of kids to their cause, Max and the girls are in Europe, breaking down the doors of the villain’s headquarters—and solving mysteries. Like who the heck is Max’s real mom, anyway? And why were they created?
And the big one: is there still enough time to save the world?
Okay. Well, the tagline on the book’s cover posits the question, “The end is near…or is it?” And you know, I’d like to know, too. Because while the characters of the book are as gripping as they were in the first two installments, in terms of plot, this book is a big old garbled mess.
Here’s the problem: as far as I can tell, there really is no plan behind anything. The villains are part of an evil, global corporation. They created not just Max and the flock, but hundreds of human-animal hybrid experiments. The most successful were the bird kids; the most common were the Erasers (human-wolf hybrids that act as the villains’ henchmen); later, we find out there are other, less successful experiments all over the world—and clones of the ones that worked well. But what the villains actually seem to want to do is commit genocide, getting rid of the most useless portions of the planet’s population, reducing it by half—or more. So sometimes it seems like the experiments are supposed to be the beginning of a new race that will be better than humans, but then villains refuse to use them in any way, and instead round them up and kill them all. All the Erasers are put down, replaced by robots. The rest of the mutants are all brought to an extermination facility in Europe and are killed off a few at a time. So…what? We’re never given the badguys’ objectives in creating the mutants, or what criteria the hybrids all failed that leads to them being exterminated. We also aren’t ever really given a motive for the By-Half genocide plan, except vague mumblings about overpopulation. We are told that the plan is put in progress, but nothing ever comes of it and we never find out how it’s supposed to work.
Not to mention the fact that it suffers from the Princess Leia problem: if Max and company were actually exterminated every time they were scheduled to be, there would have been no book. Instead, the villains always opt to run “more tests” on them (when the villains created them, so it’s unclear what or why they’re testing), giving the kids a chance to escape. A narrative necessity, but it makes me think that if this is the standard for global supervillainy, I should be Dictator For Life by now.
And that’s just the villains. There are scores of other questions left unanswered: show
Like I said, a big, garbled mess. I overlooked it in the first two, which had a feeling of rambling without actually going anywhere, if only due to the Voice’s constant repetition that there was a purpose for everything and it would all make sense eventually. Now I suspect the Voice was trying to reassure the readers, not the characters, because I can’t see any kind of plan behind anything. It’s incredibly annoying—it reads like an ultra-long NaNoWriMo project. The author went into it with great characters and an interesting premise but no plot, let them wander where they felt like, and gave only half-assed explanations for anything, failing to tie up the myriad loose ends.
With that said, though the plot was incoherent, there were good points. The best of which remained Max. Her narrative voice and personality remained strong and fun throughout. There were also moments when she hit a really excellent note—she has the weight of the world on her shoulders, pretty much literally, but it’s presented in a way that reads like the kind of teenage girl I was, and I suspect a lot of the readers are—the kind who strives to be too perfect, to do every activity, to get the best grades, to be everything to everyone. The pressure Max deals with feels like that, ramped up to the scale of saving the world. On the other hand, the author unfortunately has moments it’s taken too far, and instead of a girl struggling to keep her head above water, it becomes cliché gender wars: Max refuses to lose to Fang, to Ari, to Jeb. Though the ultimate villain turns out to be female, it in places relies to heavily on, “I’m a girl, girls kick ass, I WILL NEVER LOSE TO A BOY.” Which I would have dug when I was in the age-bracket it’s intended for, but when reading actively at this point, it induces a few eye rolls.
So overall? The series was enjoyable. The characters are pretty rockin’. The conclusion was disappointing. Two and a half cupcakes for this book—and I’d probably give the series overall three.
Tags: James Patterson