I have decided to take a leaf out of Mad Martha’s book and post today about another favourite lining the shelf: Chris Westwood’s Ministry of Pandemonium and its sequel, The Great and Dangerous. Not wanting Martha to have all the fun, I too have proved that I can arrange an attractive photo of myself for your viewing pleasure with the tomes to which I will be referring.
So! The first of this series, The Ministry of Pandemonium was one which came to the shelf after my fleshling owner decided to take a punt on an interestingly titled tome at a large chain book store which has since gone out of business. It was a punt which has returned plentiful gains in the satisfaction department for me, as I devoured the tale, pillaged the second book for its engaging content and am now eagerly awaiting the third book in the series.
The Ministry of Pandemonium deals with young Ben Harvester, a talented artist with a hard working single mum, who is surprised to discover that death, much like life, is shrouded in bureaucracy. Ben also finds out he has certain talents that the Ministry of Pandemonium could put to good use, and agrees to work with the ministry under the tutelage of the enigmatic Mister October. Thus begins a sometimes harrowing journey as Ben helps to get the deceased on their way to wherever it is they’re going, while attempting to uncover some family secrets on the way.
Read it if:
* you’ve ever suspected that the time immediately following your death may well be spent filling out life-relinquishment forms in triplicate
* you find cemeteries atmospheric, peaceful and relaxing as opposed to overgrown, creepy and downright depressing
* you’ve ever found it tricky to fit in with your peers
* your difficulties in fitting in are related to your ability to see people who have shuffled off their mortal coils and really should be doing whatever it is the dead do, rather than disrupting your ability to fit in with your peers
I found these books refreshing and perhaps more importantly, re-readable, as they seem to hit a deeper level than one ordinarily sees for books for this age group (say, 12 to 16 years). They deal with death openly and the characters are sensitively drawn, without any gimmicky stereotyping or character-flaws-for-the-sake-of-it that often crop up in tales for middle readers and young adults. Ben is an ordinary boy with ordinary problems, placed in an extraordinary circumstance.
As an extra piece of trickery, the two books reviewed here have been released under different titles, with different cover art, in the US. The Ministry of Pandemonium has been titled Graveyard Shift (rather underwhelmingly, I thought), with the following cover art:
I personally think that the original art (and title!) more accurately reflect the tone of the book – from the US cover art, one might be expecting a no-holds-barred, boys-own, rollicking adventure from cover to cover, and that’s just not what you get with this book. While there is adventure and action there’s intellect and emotion too, which I find much more satisfying, particularly in a book for young fleshlings.
Right. I’ve blabbed on too much. The self-portrait phenomenon must have gone to my head.
Until next time,