From the Publisher
Gary Paulsen, bestselling author of Brian's Winter, brings us a new dimension in adventure with The Transall Saga.
* "[A] world of rare charm, a captivating, well-realized realm, where fantastical elements force the protagonist to discover and employ the greatest strengths of his humanity."
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Paulsen (Brian's Winter) works his magic with another wilderness adventure yarn. But the wilderness this time isn't in this worldor is it? That's what 13-year-old Mark tries to discover. On his first solo backpacking trip, crossing an old missile range in a desert out west, a mysterious blue light transports him to a thick red jungle under a sulfurous sky. There the struggle for survival soon supersedes the quest for the route home. Paulsen draws on such Saturday-matinee staples as poisonous insects, deadly quicksand and murderous beasts; Mark even swings on vines with a friendly monkey-like creature (and this is just the first 30 pages). Yet the plot feels fresh, thanks to the author's taut, unsentimental storytelling (Mark's Tarzan-esque antics, for example, result in broken ribs). Mark grows to manhood in the four or so years of his sojourn; the narrative, meanwhile, continues at a hurtling pace. The teen saves a girl's life, then joins her tribe of forest-dwellers; later, he is captured with them and enslaved by the more technologically advanced Tsook people. There are raids, escapes and brushes with the Tsook overlord, the Merkon, who takes a frighteningly keen interest in Mark. Readers may figure out who the Merkon is long before the protagonist does, but no matterthe action along the way (including just the right dash of romance) is never less than enthralling. While the story is self-contained, the end points to a sequel, so, with any luck, another installment is on the way. Ages 12-up. (May)
Children's Literature - Judy Silverman
Mark is camping alone in the desert when a shaft of light transports him to what seems like a different world. Even the colors of trees, soil, and sky are odd. And the inhabitants! What very peculiar, primitive tribes! But one of the tribes is friendly, and their language is not completely impossible. Mark lives on Transall for several years before he's shown some artifacts that lead him to say, "I belong to a time hundreds, no probably thousands, of years in the past." Paulsen writes a thrilling adventure story that ends with just a little twist.
VOYA - Libby Bergstrom
On his first solo backpacking trip, Mark Harrison discovers a mysterious blue light, falling through it and landing in a strange land. From there, in episodes of non-stop action, he learns to survive on his own with little more than his pocketknife and a few broken matches. As days become years, Mark meets the inhabitants of this world called Transall, suffers as a slave, proves himself a noble warrior, and fights violent raids. He learns that he entered Transall through a time warp, and is on a radically different Earth changed by nuclear war and viral epidemics. Transall eventually becomes home to Mark. He falls in love and plans to get married, until he again finds the blue light and winds up back in his own time. Paulsen touches on the serious issues of racism, slavery, and human rights, but the breakneck speed of the plot allows little time for the exploration of these themes. The characterization is shallow, and Mark comes across as almost too good to be true--for example, he is able to fluently speak the language of the Tsook, the people who have enslaved him, after only a few months with them. Readers caught up in the excitement of the plot won't notice these weaknesses, however. Mark lives out the dreams of many YAs--to be independent, respected, and powerful. Paulsen has once again done what he does best, delivering a riveting tale of adventure and action. Expect this to be popular with Paulsen fans. VOYA Codes: 3Q 5P M J (Readable without serious defects, Every YA (who reads) was dying to read it yesterday, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8 and Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9).
School Library Journal
Gr 5-7In this rare venture into middle-grade science fiction, Paulsen catapults a modern teenager several thousand years into a future in which mutated humans are just beginning to recover from a worldwide plague. Hiking alone, Mark falls into a time warp and wakes up in a jungle inhabited by strange, almost-familiar creatures. As he uses makeshift methods to survive and searches for the roving warp, he encounters successively more civilized, web-footed people, and works his way, as years pass, up from slave to respected warrior. After fighting a war leader known as "The Merkon" (get it? Merkon? American?), who turns out to be a convict from his own era, Mark leads the tyrant's army away from his friends and fiance before the warp snatches him back and drops him in a 1990s mall. He becomes a doctor, dedicated to finding a cure for Ebola. As Paulsen fans will expect, Mark's efforts at solo survival are engrossingly credible-funny and disgusting at times, too-but the characters are only a bit less typecast than the cultures in which they live, and the violent, contrivance-ridden plot demands readers as uncritical as a protagonist who can, in all seriousness, conclude that "in this world, war and killing weren't a part of life, they were life" (whatever that means). It's a thin bit of storytelling, but a quick read, divided into very short chapters and lit by flickers of the old Paulsen magic.John Peters, New York Public Library
Paulsen (My Life in Dog Years, 1998, etc.), treading water, offers a competent fantasy-adventure about a boy who is time- warped into a primitive world, undergoes the hero's journey, and proves he can get the girl and still go home again. Mark, 13, is thrilled to spend a few days in the desert camping, until a mysterious light transports him to a place and time not his own. When he comes upon other people, recognizable but clearly different from himself, he sees that he is in a society close to that of the first peoples in North America. The language is plain, action-oriented, and always driven toward cliff-hanging chapter endings, but there is little in the way of character development. Instead the story is filled with some powerful if old-fashioned archetypes engaged in fairly primal give-and-take: Mark kills a horrible beast and thereby rescues a young maiden from its clutches; he kills or outsmarts all enemies; he is accepted as a warrior and undergoes ceremonial tributes as such; he's sweet to younger children; and prepares to marry the chief's daughter. Other than referring to pizza and his parents once or twice, Mark is at home as a warrior/survivor; his former life falls away even as he searches for the way back to the present. In the end, the light brings a 17-year-old Mark back from what was a future brought about by a great epidemic; his readjustment is unremarked upon. Readers last glimpse Mark as an adult, trying to find a vaccine for the virus behind the epidemic. (Fiction. 10- 14)
Read an Excerpt
A snorting sound came from beyond the trees. A large hairy animal resembling a buffalo charged into the small opening. It had long tusks, beady eyes and a piglike snout. The thing waved its shaggy head back and forth, sniffed the air and bellowed.
This can't be happening. Mark edged toward the nearest tree. The instant he moved, the beast spotted him. It pawed the ground with its large hooves and lowered its massive head to attack.
There was no time to think. Mark jumped for the closest branch and swung up into the tree just as the sharp tusks rushed underneath him. The animal stopped and sniffed the air again. Unable to locate its victim, the creature snorted and ambled off into the red forest.
Mark stayed on the branch. He was shaking and his mind was in a whirl. "All right. Would a hallucination attack me? This must be a real place," he whispered. "But where is it? And how did I get here?"
He thought back to the night before and the energy-charged light. It has to be. Whatever that blue light was, it's the key. When I fell into the tube it transported me to . . . to where? I don't even know if I'm on Earth anymore.