21 December 2007

There are three reasons why THIS Dahl novel was not made into a film---George, Georgina, and Josephine

Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator
Roald Dahl
Puffin, 1998

After reading the delightful Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, this sequel was an absolute let-down.

The novel begins with the great Glass Elevator breaking through the ceiling of Charlie's (formerly Wonka's) chocolate factory and rocketing into orbit around the Earth. While beyond the reaches of Earth's atmosphere, our heroes---Charlie, Grandpa Joe, and Mr. Wonka---must deal with the malleable and voracious Vermicious Knids (pronounced "K'Nids"), aliens which resemble unfrighteningly hostile figs or turds with eyes. Far worse than these beasties, though, are the insufferable old folks whose twenty-year stint in their shared bed has made them less than useless. Charlie, Joe, and Wonka, with no help from Charlie's folks or other grandparents, save themselves and a US spacecraft from the clutches of the Knids and return to the Chocolate Factory, where the old timers stupidly overdose on youth pills, returning them to infancy or beyond. Charlie and Wonka race around trying to help these ancient parasites, who respond to this assistance with the thanklessness the reader comes to expect from these oldsters. At the end of the novel, the geriatric brigade finally leaves the bed when they have a chance to meet the President.

In short, these three are the most tedious, spiteful, unredeemable characters I've come across in children's literature and I hoped that they would be eaten by the Knids or the Gnoolies (or even, God help me, the Oompa-Loompas!) as I read this book. As it is, they (unlike the awful kids in the Chocolate Factory) learn no lessons and persist in their curmudgeonly parasitism from the first page to the last. Their presence throughout the novel rendered it a chore, rather than a joy, to read.

(This review was originally written on September 18, 2006.)

No comments: