Book Series that Went to H-E-double-toothpicks: Michael Vey

I’m starting this series because there are so many series — kids’s series and adult series — that started out so promising and then just . . . went to hell.

I’m starting with Michael Vey simply because it’s the one that is on the screen in my Goodreads tab. It’s nothing personal about the series, or about Richard Paul Evans.

I picked up the first book, The Prisoner of Cell 25, in an airport. Geeze. Which airport, though? San Antonio? Baltimore? It doesn’t really matter, of course.

I. Loved. It. The characters were smart, they banded together and solved their problems. I believe it won some kind of award from, like, the science teachers’ association for the use of science both in the way the kids’ powers work and the way the kids used the scientific method in the book and . . .

I’m getting ahead of myself.

Okay, a little background. The Michael Vey series is about a teenage boy named, er, Michael Vey. Michael is being raised by his widowed mother and he’s pretty much your classic underdog — small for his age, smarter than average, and he has Tourette syndrome (not the dramatic swearing type — just a realistic tic-ing type). Oh. And he can shoot electricity from his hands.

Cheerleader Taylor Ridley sees Michael zap some bullies and talks to Michael privately. We find out that she also has electrical powers — she can distract people so that they forget what they were doing/talking about/etc.

We also meet Michael’s best friend Ostin. Ostin was born in Austin, Texas, and his mother isn’t as smart as he is and she misspelled the town of his birth on his birth certificate (I was willing to overlook that little plot detail, but maybe I shouldn’t have). Of course, not many people are as smart as Ostin, because Ostin is a certified genius.

Eventually, Michael, Taylor, and Ostin figure out that Michael and Taylor were born within a few days of each other at the same hospital and that a lot of the babies born that date in that hospital died soon after birth. But, clearly, not all of them did, so they begin to look for the babies who didn’t die, forming a “found family” that they refer to as the “Electroclan.”

And I liked the Electroclan. The kids are great and “found family, yay!” And the Electroclan isn’t limited to electric children. Ostin is a member and two of the bullies that Michael zaps at the beginning of the series join the Electroclan.

But not all of the electric children join the Electroclan. You see, the thing that caused the deaths of the babies and the formation of the electric children was some kind of imaging machine that used . . . electric waves to form the images. It was stronger than they expected and, well, the rest is history.

The machine was invented by a man named Charles James Hatch, who has become CEO of Elgen, the company that made the machine. Hatch has been collecting electric children, whom he calls “Glows,” because, well, they glow.

Hatch is a megalomaniac and goes megalomania-ing through the books of the series. He invents a power source called the Starxource system that is made from electric rats (“rats” backwards is “star”). And I’m, like, okay.

Then we find out that Hatch feeds employees who have displeased him to the rats and I’m, like, all right . . . .

So now we have our sides — Michael and his Electroclan vs. Hatch and his Glows. And, you know, a bunch of teenagers versus an entire multinational corporation, that should probably take a few books. Maybe even seven.

But as the series progresses, it gets more ludicrous. Hatch is having trouble sleeping, so he orders someone to bring him an atypical antipsychotic — Seroquel — to help him sleep. I was kind of appalled by this, because this is a book that won a science teachers’ award. Seroquel does cause drowsiness, but shouldn’t he be taking an actual sleeping pill like Lunesta or Ambien?

In The Battle of the Ampere, the third book in the series, Michael finds himself living among an uncontacted tribe in Peru, the Amacarra, who have another electric child living among them (so much for uncontacted) and who speak freaking Mandarin. For example, the chief says “Wo syiwang jeiyang,” which in characters is — probably — “我希望这样” and in English is definitely “I hope so.”

I mean, really. I actually emailed Evans to say that I certainly hoped that the fact that the Amacarra were speaking Mandarin was going somewhere. And I even stuck out the whole series at least partially in hopes that it would go somewhere.

It didn’t.

Eventually, Michael kills thousands of people by zapping them all but Michael doesn’t seem to have any kind of remorse or PTSD or anything, which really bugged me. I mean, he killed thousands of people. Augh!

The last book in the series focuses on people I neither knew nor cared about doing things that I certainly didn’t really care about. By the end of the final book, I decided to just sell the whole damn thing to a used book store. I’m really sad to lose Prisoner of Cell 25, because I did love it, but even I can’t convince myself that the series was “Book 1 and then they lived happily ever after,” and I believe that there were only four seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer — 1, 2, 3, and 5.

Now for a Gratuitous Amazon Link to a series that didn’t go to hell. This is the Streetlights Like Fireworks series by David Pandolfe. Streetlights Like Fireworks is a four-book series about Jack and Lauren, runaway teens with psychic powers. Jack and Lauren head out to track down a musician who disappeared in the 1990s and just kind of never go home again.

On second thought, here’s the first book, since apparently there isn’t a box set of all four: Streetlights Like Fireworks. I really love this series and am so tempted to rerereread it, but I have three books that I’m in the middle of and so I need to forge ahead. Maybe sometime in the future.

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