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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


The Story of the Blue Planet

Andri Snær Magnason

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To purchase The Story of the Blue Planet

Title: The Story of the Blue Planet
Author: Andri Snær Magnason
Genre: Novel
Written: 1999 (Eng. 2012)
Length: 133 pages
Original in: Icelandic
Availability: The Story of the Blue Planet - US
The Story of the Blue Planet - UK
The Story of the Blue Planet - Canada
The Story of the Blue Planet - India
Les enfants de la planète bleue - France
Die Geschichte vom blauen Planeten - Deutschland
  • Icelandic title: Sagan af bláa hnettinum
  • Translated by Julian Meldon D'Arcy
  • With illustrations by Áslaug Jónsdóttir

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Our Assessment:

B- : fine, free-wheeling kids' book

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The NY Times Book Rev. . 11/11/2012 Amanda Little
Publishers Weekly . 10/9/2012 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "Magnason’s writing is lean, swift and often lyrical (owing in part to an impressive translation by Julian Meldon D’Arcy), and for the most part he manages not to be didactic. While the metaphors are not subtle (...) Magnason generally manages to temper his morality tale with enough wit and levity that it doesn’t feel heavy-handed. Toward the end the author careens into territory that makes the story feel cluttered. (...) But the book, over all, is immensely satisfying -- a major contribution to the sparsely populated eco-lit genre" - Amanda Little, The New York Times Book Review

  • "His sly, smart parable, first published in 1999, takes aim at the central dilemma of the developed world: is it ethical to be happy at the cost of others’ suffering ? (...) (A) memorable and provocative tale, and a splendid opener for discussions about our own blue planet." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Story of the Blue Planet is set on a planet populated only by children (who, for some reason, don't age -- the specifics, such as the explanations of that, and where they come from, etc. are simply dismissed with a: "Nobody knows"). Without annoying grown-ups controlling their lives the kids are doing okay:

The wild children ate when they were hungry, slept when they got tired, and in between they played without anyone interfering.
       The arrival of an adult -- Gleesome Goodday -- changes things. Goodday says he can make their lives even better -- and he does, giving them the power to fly, for example, which they all think is pretty fantastic, and more fun than anything they could have imagined in their earthbound days. Or, when they complain that since they can only fly in sunlight they're missing out on so much during the night, he helpfully nails the sun to the sky, so it stays in place and shines all day (and night). And all he asks in return for these wonderful things is a tiny bit of their youth ..... Tiny bits do add up, but no one really notices .....
       When two of the kids get lost on the other -- and now always dark -- side of the planet, and see what the children there are dealing with in the absence of the sun, they begin to think that maybe the paradise Goodday offers them isn't that great, and certainly unfair. But when they get back to the sunny side they can't convince their friends. They take a vote -- democracy in action ! -- but Goodday's spin convinces the overwhelming majority that everything is perfect as it is. Even the fact that they're slowly turning gray and old .....
       Eventually, one child is willing to make the greatest sacrifice to change the situation -- but then comes an inspired solution that makes everyone happy, even capitalist youth-hoarding Goodday.
       The moralizing in The Story of the Blue Planet may not be too loud, but it is certainly insistent. For the most part, it's quite cleverly done, too. Marketer Goodday is no snake-oil salesman: he gives the kids what they're after (though admittedly he knows how to convince his customers) and even if they're not immediately aware of the cost (not realizing how a drop here, a drop there adds up) they certainly enjoy what they've paid for. The ecological costs don't seem that bad, either, not when they consider how much fun they're having -- sure, they smell pretty bad, but that's hardly a concern; sure, those kids on the other side of the world have it bad because of them, but sending them food, blankets, and shoes surely is doing enough for them .....
       In the end, however, the kids see the light and right their wrongs (and, conveniently as well as symbolically, regain their lost youth) and build a better world -- all rather easily. Indeed, among the lessons not learnt: damage is not that easily undone (you stop the sun in its tracks, that should be pretty hard to set right again). As to showing how easily democracy fails (a conclusion reinforced by the ending, which actually sees the installment of a different kind of government -- even if it is portrayed as defanged and harmless here), that's a more disturbing message for the kids.
       This is a story aimed at younger children, ones who can readily accept premises such as the possibility of simply nailing the sun in place to keep it shining all day. Interestingly, however, it's not all harmless, childish fun: an early scene has two of the kids grilling a seal that one of them clubbed to death.
       Andri occasionally seems to take the easy way out, adjusting his story (and reality) to whatever the needs of the story are, and older kids (and impatient adults) might be annoyed by some of the unrealistic aspects to much of the story. There are some clever twists and ideas here, but even in conveying its various messages the narrative stumbles along on occasion. It's fine -- and parts are fun -- but not entirely successful.

- M.A.Orthofer, 7 January 2013

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The Story of the Blue Planet: Reviews: Andri Snær Magnason: Other books by Andri Snær Magnason under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Icelandic author Andri Snær Magnason was born in 1973.

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© 2013 the complete review

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