This review is brought to you as part of the Virtual Book Tour for The Olympus Cloud: Adventures of a Dreamer, hosted by Sage’s Blog Tours.
This is a little different to my usual reviews as I’ve never been invited to take part in a Book Tour before, but I still intend to present this book with the same honesty as the rest of my posts. However, it’s going to be slightly shorter as I don’t have as much to analyse here as I’ve had with some of my other reviews due to the style in which it is written and the fact that it only really revolves around one central character.
The Olympus Cloud: Adventures of a Dreamer was written by Stephen Randel and was only published last month. It is a collection of short stories that tell of the adventures that lie within the imagination of a French bulldog. For more information about the author and his other work you can check out his website: www.stephenrandel.com
When awake, Max is the energetic and carefree pet of an elderly gentleman from Texas. However, as Max dreams he finds himself embarking on all manner of adventures. Whether it be as a baseball team’s mascot or being launched into space, Max faces any challenges that lie before him head on and ensures that he is always safely home for dinner.
The Olympus Cloud is fluently written and Randel does well to capture the different moods of Max’s dreams. Over the course of the book, Max’s adventures take on a wide variety of different tones. He helps with a cattle drive in The Trail, leads a pack of lions in The Serengeti and reunites a ghost boy with his mother in The Boy on the Moor. Many authors choose to stick to one style of writing, yet Randel proves in this little collection that he is very adept at writing in all manner of styles.
Although the stories varied in length and quality, my favourites included Ten Bones Per Day, Plus Expenses, in which Max assumed the role of a private detective in a film noir setting, and The Red Oni, where ronin Max must save a princess who has been kidnapped by a demon. There really is something to cater for every taste in this collection – whether your interest is fantasy, horror or science fiction, Max has a dream to satisfy you.
It is also incredibly clear that the author has researched each story extensively as they are packed with details that add further depth to Max’s dreams. Although these sometimes feel a little showy – most noticeably in some of the longer stories like The Clockmaker which contain a lot of exposition in order to set the scene – some do present some genuinely interesting little facts that younger readers will find fascinating (though I should also probably note that a couple are still slightly inaccurate as the repeated references to pteradons as ‘flying dinosaurs’ during Cretaceous did cause my finely honed geek senses to burn).
I did also find a couple of stylistic choices that the author had made to be a little jarring. Firstly, some of the stories switch between first and third person narratives unevenly and I felt that this was unnecessary and a little confusing. The worst offenders for this were The Trail and Cretaceous, both of which I felt would have benefited from being written in a single narrative voice. Additionally, some of the stories – Missing Pets, Dead Fred and The Trench – lacked the opening paragraph that framed to dream. Because of this, were we supposed to take that these stories actually took place within the waking world? This felt like a distinct possibility for Missing Pets as it did not place Max in any improbable situations, but far less so for the zombie story and World War I drama.
It also surprised me that Max was not the central character in all of the stories. Although he was present (and, indeed, integral) in each of them, the focus of several stories were actually on the human characters that Max interacted with in his dreams. This struck me as a little strange as I felt that if the dog was the one dreaming, each dream should really have been told from his perspective, and the better stories were definitely the ones that did give Max the reins.
However, my biggest uncertainty with the stories was exactly who the target audience is. As I previously noted, the stories do vary wildly in style and tone. While some of the tales – including Dead Fred, The Serengeti and Murder Most Foul at the Witches Banquet – were very easy reads and could be readily enjoyed by younger readers, some of the others were far more complex and filled with terminology that I’m not certain that most middle graders would understand.
I’m not sure if this is a cultural difference (as you may have noticed from my spelling, I’m English) but I did not know some of the words that the author used. The first two stories – The Trail and The Knudsen Twins – were the worst offenders for this. The Trail uses a lot of terminology to describe a cattle drive that I was unfamiliar with and The Knudsen Twins is full of baseball terminology that was utterly lost on me (it should be noted that the phrase “Max shagged balls in the outfield” conjures an entirely different image in the mind of an Englishwoman who knows nothing about baseball). As I say, perhaps these terms would be well known to an American middle grader but they certainly left me scratching my head.
But these stylistic gripes aside, The Olympus Cloud is still a fun little collection. I’m not sure how much appeal it would have to an older audience as some of the stories are a little childish, but Max certainly has sufficient charm to worm his way into the heart of an animal-loving middle grader.