D.F. Anderson’s THE MAKER is as much a story of self-discovery and the development of inner confidence as it is a high stakes space adventure. Thirteen year old Nate’s mom had always loved his artwork, but that was before his dad left, the much-loathed Ted moved in, and Nate started drawing his terrifying visions. When some alien creatures steal his sketchbook, Nate is transported from this unhappy reality to a place where he has the power to Make things through his drawings – using tiny alien creatures and his imagination – and save the world.
While Anderson’s narrative is well-constructed, there aren’t many unexpected twists in the plot, as it follows a fairly typical Hero’s Journey, but it is done in a way that still feels fresh and works well for this story. Unfortunately it does feel a bit rushed in places. The novel takes place over a short space of time, meaning that the rush does make sense narratively, but a bit more time for character development and unforced exposition would have given more depth to the world-building. Instead there are moments where Nate is simply told how something works by another character, usually through Nate’s new friend Coral, or where the reader is left feeling unfulfilled, such as in Nate’s abrupt initial lessons on Making. Though the novel is ultimately still a success, this can make it frustrating at times.
THE MAKER’s Nate Smith is, in many ways, a fairly typical reluctant hero. He begins as a very unhappy boy, familiar to this kind of coming-of-age narrative, with problems at home and no clear way to solve them. While the author doesn’t spend much time on this background – choosing instead to hurry on to the sci-fi action that his readers anticipate – what he does write is fairly jarring and it remains as a background issue throughout Nate’s adventure. It influences the way the protagonist sees himself and his actions throughout the novel. In this, Anderson’s authorial skills shine through as the plot helps Nate grow, developing confidence and resolving many of his home issues without being too ham-fisted or moralistic. His character arc feels very natural and age-appropriate, without being preachy or patronizing.
THE MAKER is a fast-paced and engaging read, with a fresh take on some familiar concepts and a strong character arc at its center.
~Kate Stuart for Indie Reader