In a sense, the most original aspect of "Albert of Adelaide" is that Anderson makes not the slightest attempt to have his story mean anything in particular; it's a straightforward road novel, an adventure stuffed with dust and blood and firelight, a bald account of what happens to a platypus who escapes from a zoo on the southern Australian coast and makes his way, under duress, very nearly to the coast of northern Australia. There are no neurotic lovers, no tendrils of postmodern anomie and ennui, no sly digs at suburban life, no moments of infinitesimally subtle epiphany.
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Anderson just unreels his story, and then it ends; which, with total respect for so many of the shimmering storytellers we count as modern masters of the novel, I found refreshing, and a little startling. As did the book's publisher, I note with a smile; a prefatory note from Twelve's Cory Goldstein claims that Albert "tackles timeless themes like friendship, loyalty, and what it takes to be a hero.
Albert of Adelaide (Albert, book 1) by Howard Anderson
But he then puts his finger right on Albert's virtue: "It's a book to get lost in, a book that takes me somewhere I haven't ever been before. While I am absolutely sure "Albert of Adelaide" is a unique novel, a work of original verve and vision, I am not quite sure it's a very good novel; a Very Good Novel, like a Great Novel, makes you want to read it again not only for what you missed but for the music of it, the irresistible world of it , and read more of that author's work, and read other books about that subject, and I can say none of these things about "Albert of Adelaide.
Let us call it a Good Novel, well worth your time and money, and let us conclude with another of literature's most alluring words - unforgettable. You may not rush to immediately reread "Albert" when you finish it, but you will not soon forget the platypus with a bush hat, his backpack filled with cans of sardines and a water bottle, shuffling through sand and saltbush toward the mountains.
Albert of Adelaide
Albert of Adelaide, by Howard L. Photo: Twelve. Caption Close. Image 1 of 3. Back to Gallery.
You will love this book and will find yourself reading passages aloud to your loved ones, maybe even to the dog.
Take those characters, switch them with wombats, wallabies, dingos, a Tasmanian devil and a platypus, and then give everyone a firearm. Join Albert the platypus on a delightful, sometimes harrowing, road trip in Australia during which many things happen-not all of them good.
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Most of all, though, it's unique. Howard L. Once Albert has waddled onto store shelves in paperback, I fully expect book groups around the country to gleefully tear it apart, especially book groups with an emphasis on civic engagement.