Max was discovered as a baby abandoned in a bookshop. Adopted by Forbes and Alice, for a time he is happy; then questions begin to haunt him. But all is not well with his world as adults start to disappear; the Vanishings. What is the connection between Max and this strange phenomenon? How can Max find the answers he so desires – and will they be the answers he dreams of?
When is a translation not a translation? When it is this novel by debut author, Malcolm McNeill. Written in English, it was first published in Germany as a translation. Now it finds its way back home. In a way, its journey reflects that of Max, as he searches for his dream, his Forever Parents – only to discover eventually that he is looking in the wrong place. In this the plot is that of the quest, the search for the answer to the question ‘who am I?’ However, woven into the story there is the battle between imagination and science, between the power of story and of reality, the opposition of a world of “natural” forces to a mechanised one. It deals with identity, consequences and chance; a rich brew of allegory and symbol. The narrative sprawls along carrying the reader with it, though somewhat to the detriment of characterisation, plotting and reflection. There is much to applaud – the author has a fertile imagination and something to say – but less can be more, and the whole would have benefitted from judicious pruning. Accessible certainly to young readers KS3 with reading stamina and questioning minds, it has an affinity with novels such as The Never Ending Story, The Princess Bride or The Book of Lost Things , and might suit adults who will appreciate the journey. An interesting first novel that raises many interesting ideas.