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Albert of Adelaide: A Novel by Howard Anderson
Cover Artist: Mark Burckhardt
Review by Colleen Cahill
Twelve Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781455509621
Date: 10 July 2012 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

While we are always warned about judging a book by its cover, it is hard not to get some impression from cover art. The platypus dressed in a vest and jacket on Howard Anderson's Albert in Adelaide immediate brought The Wind in the Willows to my mind. Certainly, this is a book with talking animals that wear clothes, but it is not a happy tale of cozy teas and troublesome toads. A much darker work, and definitely not written for children, this is a tale of seeking paradise and how you might end up somewhere else.

Albert is a platypus who has recently escaped the zoo. His goal is to find the rumored place in the desert north of Alice Springs, "a place where old Australia still existed". It is not an easy spot to find and Albert soon is lost with no water, obviously on the edge of death when he hears a song. Investigation reveals not the hallucination Albert fears, but a wombat dressed in "a long drover's coat and gray slouch hat". This is amazing luck for our hero, as Jack the Wombat not only has food and water, but provides clothing and an education on desert survival. After his life in the zoo of "confinement and regular habits", it is new world of freedom and confusion, as Albert "still didn't know where he was going or how he got where he was".

Certainly, Albert never expected to land in Ponsby Station, a rough and tumble mining town with "bandicoots on one side of town, rock wallabies on the other". Since no one here had seen a platypus before, Albert is a bit of a mystery to the others. He even gets in a bit of a dust up with a pair of drunken bandicoots, but that seems be the fine and with Jack's help, he is beginning to fit in. The next thing Albert knows, the bar is on fire, so he and Jack are on the run from the owner, a kangaroo bent on revenge. To avoid capture, the pair split up, with Albert looking again for Old Australia. He ends up in a canyon looking at a sign that points to Hell. Partly curious and partly having no other path, Albert stumbles into a trading post, but soon discovers a trap. Again fate steps in and a helping hand appears in the form of a raccoon.

It would ruin the book to explain how a new world mammal ended up in the Outback and there are plenty more surprises in this book, including a wrestling Tasmanian Devil who lives in a circus tent. This is, however, not a work of humor, even if you will have a smile or two. This is life on the edge, a hard-scrabble kind of existence where people will prey on each other to survive. You could say Albert traded the comforts of the zoo for the hardships of freedom. What makes this platypus noble is he might stumble, but he does keep going forward towards his dream and lends a helping hand were he can.

Definitely a work for adults, Albert of Adelaide is an enthralling book full of complex characters, twisting adventures and a compelling hero. This fantasy is highly recommended, especially for those looking for something with both grit and heart.


Our Readers Respond

From: O.S. Card
Might want to mention that it's available from audible.com as well. Because of this review, I just bought it and downloaded it. i'm looking forward to listening to it soon.
Editor's Note: Here's the Audible link: http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B008GVZYWE&qid=1347628283&sr=1-1.

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