Noggin Book Review

“Listen- I was alive once and then I wasn’t. Simple as that. Now I’m alive again. The in-between part is still a little fuzzy, but I can tell you that, at some point or another, my head got chopped off and shoved into a freezer in Denver, Colorado.” These are the opening sentences to John Corey Whaley’s book Noggin. This book was next on my list from the ALA 2015 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults. 

The premise of this book was very intriguing.  The main character, Travis Coates, agrees to have his head severed and cryogenically frozen. Every part of Travis’s body, except his head, was sick with cancer. No amount of chemo, radiation, or blood marrow transplants could save his life. The only hope he has is sometime in the way distant future science will evolve so that his head can be reattached to a healthy body and give him another chance at life. It took a bit of convincing, but in the end, both Travis and parents agree to procedure.

Few people believed it would be possible, Travis being one of them. When he awakes to find his head attached to Jeremy Pratt’s body, it feels like no time has passed. In reality, it’s been five years since his friends and family said good-bye to him. Everyone and everything around him has changed. His best friend Kyle is now in college, and his girlfriend Cate is engaged. Travis must navigate through this new life of being alive in the present while still being stuck in the past.

Often times when tragedy strikes we are stuck with how to navigate uncharted waters. We want life to be the way it’s always been and struggle with how to live under new circumstances. It’s easier to fall back on what’s known to us than to venture out into the scary unknown. We have a hard time letting go of the past. While Travis’s situation is quite a bit different than any tragedy we might face, the struggle of being stuck living in the present while wanting the past is all to familiar.

Overall I found Noggin to be an interesting concept. We’re talking about head transplants! The idea about being frozen in time and waking up like no time has past at all kind of blows my mind. It’s like a modern day Frankenstein’s monster type of thing, but without the electricity and a bit more humanoid. I had a difficult time staying forced with this read. It didn’t truly grab my attention until I was a little over halfway through. It wasn’t until things got a bit more action-packed that I started to appreciate what was happening in the story. I couldn’t really feel sorry for him because he chose to do the experiment. He has to live with the consequences of his decision.  The end will tug at your heart and cause you to shed a few tears, though.

I did enjoy the way the chapters were named. The last few words from the previous chapter then become the chapter title for the next one. Chapter thirty-three ends with “I don’t know. We’re just meandering.” And chapter thirty-four is, “Just Me and a Ring.” I found it to be rather creative of the author.

The book was okay. I don’t see myself ever reading it again, but I appreciate the way Whaley explores the concept of letting go of the past and finding a way to still hold on to the things we love after they change. 

Would you ever choose to have your head cryogenically frozen if it meant that you might be able to live longer?  

May the FORCE be with you: Star Wars, Episode IV A New Hope Book Review


A Summary 

 In a galaxy far, far away Luke Skywalker dreams of adventure but is stuck living a boring life on his uncle's farm. His life quickly changes when he intercepts a mysterious message from a princess trapped by the Empire. With an old hermit, a smuggler and his Wookie companion, and two trouble-making droids, Luke embarks on a mission to save the princess but encounters more than he bargained for. 

My Top three LIKES from Stars Wars A New Hope

1. Biggs and Skywalker’s relationship // In the exposition of the novel we encounter a brief interaction with Luke and his dear friend Biggs. Biggs is about to leave Tatooine and travel to join the rebellion forces, while Luke Skywalker, desperate to join Biggs, must stay and live his mundane life on his uncle’s farm. This short scene gives a backstory that isn’t seen in the movie. Readers are able to better understand the relationship between the two characters and empathize with Luke later on when his best friend is blown up in his X-wing while trying to attack the Death Star.

We’re a couple of shooting stars, Biggs, and we’ll never be stopped.
— Luke Skywalker

2. The Storyline Design // Multiple stories are told at once in this action packed adventure. There is Luke and Obi-Wan Kenobi on Tatooine. Princess Lia stuck aboard the Death Star. Han Solo and Chewbacca on the Millennium Falcon. Artoo Detoo and See Threepio getting into all sorts of trouble in various places throughout the galaxy. The layout and the design of the book creates smooth transitions for the reader to flawlessly transition from one character's story to the next in a similar fashion that Lucas uses in his films. One story frame would simply wipe in front of my eyes and be replaced by another. 

3. It's Star Wars // I liked this book for the simple fact that it is Star Wars. The Star Wars story is a timeless classic, a story I've enjoyed since early childhood. 

Even though Lucas is credited with being the author of the book, the novelization was created by Alan Dean Foster based on Lucas’s working script at the time the movie was in production.

Even though Lucas is credited with being the author of the book, the novelization was created by Alan Dean Foster based on Lucas’s working script at the time the movie was in production.

My top three DISLIKES from Stars Wars A New Hope

1.  Poor Writing // The story is lacking in detail and substance. I thought it would offer more light into the beginning of the Star Wars saga, provide more of a background.  Not so much. It is laden with poorly described scenes and characters. Kenobi is made out to be an old, crazy wizard who smokes a pipe all day in his cave. When I came across this section of the story, I felt like I was in the wrong sic-fi story. This is more Lord of the Rings details than Star Wars. Then there are areas with poor similes and metaphors. For example, "Luke's mind was as muddy as a pond laced with petroleum." Talk about bad imagery. In addition, I struggled with the lack of word choice. The word bowels is excessively used to describe any moment a place is located deep within something. 

  • "The central briefing room was located deep within the bowels of the temple." 
  • "There was a brief moan,the whoosh of powerful vacuum, and the small robot was sucked into the bowels of sand crawler as neatly as a pea up a straw."
  • "As they traveled farther and deeper into the bowels of the gigantic station, they found it increasingly difficult to maintain an air of casual indifference."

Give me some variety, please! 

2. Too many Earth references // These are several Earth references that surface in the book. They just don't fit within this realm and leave the reader and the characters confused.  

"I understand you're quite the pilot yourself. Piloting and navigation aren't hereditary, but a number of the things that can combine to make a good small-ship pilot are. Those you may have inherited. Still, even a duck has to be taught to swim." 

"What's a duck?" Luke asked curiously. 

3. Chunky Dialogue// I always tell my students that the book is better than the movie. This book, however, is not the case. The movie is far superior than the book. The novelization is filled with unnecessary changes in dialogue that slow down the story instead of progress it. I've watched the movie so many times that it was easy to pick up on the poorly altered dialogue. 

I decided to read through this novelization after discovering one of my close friends has yet to ever experience the Star Wars galaxy in any form! Don’t worry, we’re on course to fix this real soon. It was great to draw back into the world of Star Wars through text as the book was a fun read; however,  it does not come close to the beauty and wonder that is George Lucas’s Star Wars. I highly recommend that you choose the movie over the book.

If you’ve read the novelization, how would you rate this book? What ways do you stay connected to the galaxy far, far away…?

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