Alien romp - by the numbers
I AM NUMBER FOUR PETTICUS LORE (Penguin, €17.50 )
John Smith is 15-years-old, has just moved to a new town in rural Ohio and is struggling to fit in. He is also an alien from the planet Lorien, is beginning to realise that he has special powers and is being hunted by the Mogadorians, a brutal alien race which has destroyed his once peaceful planet.
He was part of a group of nine Lorien children who were evacuated from the planet and placed in safety on earth. Due to a charm placed on the kids who are being hunted by the Mogadorians, they can only be killed in ascending order of their number.
John is the 'number four' of the title but there's one slight problem -- number three has just been killed.
I Am Number Four has caused something of a stir since its release in America during the summer -- the movie rights have already been snapped up and production has started, starring Alex Pettyfer as John and Glee's Dianna Agron as his girlfriend.
But critics have been quick to point out that the whole thing reeks of a marketing campaign and point to the fact that the nominal 'author' of the book, Pittacus Lore, is not an alien who has been on this planet for 10,000 years but is in actual fact James Frey, he of the A Million Little Pieces literary scandal.
Behind all the hype lies the obvious question -- does I Am Number Four work? The answer is yes -- even though, in all probability, it shouldn't.
Solidly aimed at the 'young adult' market, there is precious little true originality here. After all, Smallville, the TV show about a young Clark Kent was all about, you guessed it, a young alien with special powers trying to hide his identity and fit in with humans.
Yet despite this and the critical mauling, I Am Number Four is a cracking read. John Smith is an engaging character and his guardian, Henri, knows he will have to struggle to stop his charge from revealing his true identity. Tensions mount as the Mogadorians begin to close in, and on top of that, Smith has to deal with the high school bully and the ex-boyfriend of the object of his affections.
I Am Number Four certainly isn't worth all the marketing hype, and the fact that they are planning six books and movies indicates that this is a piece aimed more at a demographic franchise than an actual reader. But taken on its own merits it works perfectly fine.