CM . . .
. Volume XVII Number 11. . . .November 12, 2010
River Odyssey. (The Submarine Outlaw Series; 3).
Vancouver, BC: Ronsdale Press, 2010.
229 pp., pbk., $10.95.
Grades 6-9 / Ages 11-14.
Review by Kim Aippersbach.
Man I wished she wasn't here! I realized it wouldn't bother me as much if Hollie and I drowned as much as if she did, strange as that was to think. We were sailors. It was a risk we lived with every day and it was a choice we had made. Even though Hollie was just a dog, I knew he felt the same way, I just knew it. Marie was our passenger. She was our responsibility. Gosh, I wished she wasn't here right now.
I tried raising the sub just a little. I pumped air into the tanks and we rose about five feet. The cable didn't let go. I pumped air out of the tanks and we fell and pumped the wreck and that made a loud noise.
"Oh! What was that?"
"Nothing. We just bumped the wreck a little. No big deal."
Without being able to turn the propeller, I couldn't even turn the sub around to look at the cable. It was so frustrating!
"The Submarine Outlaw" series has an original and appealing central concept: young Alfred pilots his unregistered submarine wherever he likes, with a seagull for a first mate and a dog for a second. He gets into trouble because he can't resist rescuing people (and animals) and so is always barely evading capture by the authorities who will take his submarine away from him. Thus, Alfred is firmly a good guy and yet still an outlaw—an irresistible combination. He is essentially an orphan but has grandparents and adult friends to advise him, so he has enviable freedom but maintains a moral centre.
In River Odyssey, the third book of the series, Alfred is given a quest by his spiritual mentor: he needs to find the father who abandoned him as a baby. Unwillingly, he puts off his planned journey to the Pacific and instead journeys from Newfoundland up the St Lawrence River to Montreal. Along the way, he finds people to rescue and dangers (including police) to evade. A few of these incidents felt contrived, and the scene where his submarine drifts away from its mooring and he has to chase it down the river is quite unbelievable, but it is all exciting enough. Some atmosphere is given with the mention of ghosts and curses, but, as this is not a fantasy story, the ghosts seem out of place, although we do see Alfred's character as he tries to stay rational but admits that there are things beyond his understanding. The best bits are when Alfred uses his skill and knowledge of his submarine to get out of difficult situations. Alfred's experiences in Montreal looking for and finding his father are realistic and moving. The ending is satisfying without being sentimental.
This is a fast-paced story, and along the way Roy manages to convey a certain amount of historical and geographical information about the St. Lawrence Seaway. The mentions of Cartier's journey are perhaps a bit didactic-sounding, but, in general, the description of an historically and economically important waterway is convincing and engaging.
River Odyssey has definite appeal for boys, but girls might find Alfred an appealingly romantic hero. The age-old quest for the father gives depth to this exciting adventure story. Readers who discover the Submarine Outlaw in this book will want to read his earlier adventures and will eagerly await the next one.
Kim Aippersbach is a freelance editor and writer with three children in Vancouver, BC.
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