Monday, April 26, 2010

Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure by Allan Richard Shickman

First published in 2007.

Zan-Gah: A prehistoric adventure has only begun. Pressed by love for his brother and a bad conscience, the hero undertakes a quest which leads to captivity, conflict, love, and triumph. In three years Zan-Gah passes from an uncertain boyhood to a tried and proven manhood and a role of leadership among his people. This dramatic and impassioned story will thrill and deeply move young adults and older readers. They will dream of Zan-Gah at night, and remember it all of their lives! (book back blurb)

Reading this book was like trying a new food: your tongue doesn't really know how to react to it. It's neither good nor bad. It's definitely not bad but your tongue hasn't decided if it actually likes it yet. It might need a few more tastes to adjust.

This book is by far unique to anything I've ever read, in YA or not. How many books out there tell a story from the point of view of a kid living 10,000 years ago? It's a world we know very little about and all of his experiences are entirely new while his emotions are ones that transcend time. Wanting to find a missing brother, playing the opossum when you know you should, stepping up to the plate when it's your time to hit. All of those raw emotions are there without being supplemented by cars, iPods or lockers. It makes it interesting, like a new spice you're not used to yet.

I'd say the only deterrent for me was the voice of the book. It was a little stilted but at the same time, just what is the voice of a 15 year old that could tell you what a Sabretooth tiger tasted like? He's not going to sound like us, he's not going to relay information the same way. Hell, he doesn't even wear shoes! So there is a distance there but at the same time it doesn't make Zan-Gah unattainable. I was able to connect with him on his entire journey.

It was very interesting to read but I still don't know if I like it. It hasn't swished around in my mouth long enough, I guess. It's weird. I read through it pretty quickly. I was compelled to keep reading by the story. I guess because it's so different that it's kind of hard to digest. That doesn't make it a bad thing. It's just . . . interesting.

As I said, the only real turn-off for me was the voice. Other than that, it told a good story filled with suspense, action, hope and love. You get to look into the lives of people that no longer exist, in a time long past, and you get to see just how raw it all was. It's like reading the Natural History Museum in book form but with personality and life. In order to read this, though, you'd have to be really willing for something different. Like getting up the nerve to try sushi for the first time. Or frogs legs. It's an acquired taste. Not that it tastes bad when you first try it but the flavor doesn't really develop until you sit and think about it. This isn't your standard historical fiction, that's for sure.

But I am looking forward to reading the sequel. It's all about Gael, Zan-Gah's twin brother, who was kidnapped by these crazy people and then sold into slavery. He's got some real PTSD issues to deal with and it's just interesting looking as psychology 10,000 years ago. The notion of a broken soul that they use is just amazing.

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