Author: Diana Wynne Jones
My rating: 5 of 5
Howard and his little sister (known to one and all simply as “Awful”) wander into their kitchen after school one day to find Fifi (the student who stays in the house to help out) as usual–as well as something most unusual: an enormous, and not particularly clean, man sitting in the middle of the room, taking up almost the whole of the kitchen floor space. Their bafflement increases as it becomes clear that this man, this “goon”, intends to stay right where he is until he can speak with their father, Quentin. The goon’s message, when Quentin does arrive home is even stranger: Archer’s waiting for his two thousand words that Quentin was supposed to write. As it turns out, for the past thirteen years, Quentin has been regularly mailing off random rubbish he’s typed . . . without knowing to whom or for what reason he was doing it. And while this “Archer”, whoever he is, claims to be the root of it all, Howard isn’t convinced; he’s determined to figure this out, especially when his dad goes stubborn (refusing to write anything) and Archer starts making all sorts of trouble, what with the Goon still parking in their house and the lights not always working and such.
I’ve said it before, but anything by Diana Wynne Jones is pretty much guaranteed to be amazing; if you haven’t read her books, you should totally start now. Having said that, Archer’s Goon probably isn’t the best book for someone unfamiliar with her writing to start out with, just because it’s a bit more gradual in its development. But it’s perfect that way. I absolutely loved the vague sense of unease, the way in which the strangeness just seemed to ooze out gradually, getting weirder and weirder. Yet somehow making sense, once you got to the root of it all. I swear, I have never read anyone with more imagination–or the courage to actually write the crazy stuff Jones has and pull it off. I think the slower pacing of the plot is supported–and still very interesting–because of the excellent cast. Howard seems fairly normal, sort of imaginative in a science-y sort of way, dreaming of rocketships and such. Awful lives up to her name with aplomb, which is actually kind of awesome; she’d be terrible to actually be around, but she’s got a stubborn streak and loads of ingenuity and cleverness in employing her loud and obnoxious little girl voice. It’s actually pretty useful, sometimes. I appreciated that their parents were present and involved in their lives . . . but human and distracted enough to be full and complete characters themselves. And let’s face it, no human, even a very responsible adult, would be completely pulled together in the circumstances they were facing. Truly, I think I have rarely, if ever, read a book as colorful and mesmerizing as Archer’s Goon; I would give it the highest recommendations without hesitation.