Duke and Michel: The Mysterious Corridor by Elias Zapple is the first in a series of adventure stories, aimed at the 7-11 market, probably appealing more to boys than girls.
I say this because largely there are very few girls in the book, and most of the ones that are are either in it very briefly, or more as caricatures than characters. The story will not be unappealing to girls per se, it’s a humorous, fast paced adventure that has a broad touch that will appeal to all kinds of kids, but there isn’t much in the way of female characters to empathise with at any point.
I think children may love this book. I didn’t, but then I am not the target market.
The story is about a young boy called Michel. He is required to babysit his toddler cousin, Romain. In the garden one day, Michel turns his back on Romain to go and hunt for a lost football, and when he turns around again, Romain is gone.
It transpires that Romain has been sucked into a vortex which has dropped him into a world in which there are infinite parallel universes, all of which are connected by a giant corridor. It is sort of like a modern version of The Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. The worlds are all called things like Candy World etc, and each is themed.
Following Romain’s footsteps, Michel reluctantly teams up with a talking Bassett hound called Duke. Duke is a fat, pompous dog who is only really interested in eating things, and loathes humans who want to stroke him. He is in possession of a handbook, which explains a lot of what is going on in the world of the corridor and the worlds that adjoin it. Unfortunately, Duke and the other characters who possess it, hand out information as if it were gold dust, and Michel is as baffled by what is going on as the reader for large parts of the book.
It transpires that Duke has lost his brothers, and eventually they find that both Duke’s brothers and Romain have been kidnapped by an evil genius called The Master, who has put Romain and the dogs to work in his school.
Michel and Duke battle through a series of increasingly bizarre worlds in order to find their lost relatives and bring them home.
This book could be great but I have issues with it.
The story is not well executed. It is like watching a montage of action scenes, or jump cuts in films rather than a story. There is no depth and back story to the characters, there is very little explanation as to why all the things in the story are happening, or explanation which makes sense and explains all the oddnesses in the story anyway. There is simply a collection of encounters, funny scenes, fight scenes, action scenes and flight scenes, with nothing really holding them together except the flimsiest plot arc.
The characters all speak oddly. There are a variety of different slangs and dialects peppered through the book which could add richness and texture to the narrative, but which were not particularly well executed in my opinion. I struggled with this a lot.
If, like me, you are recommending stories to children, or for a school setting, you need to know that there are instances of the use of the expletives ‘bloody’ and ‘douche’ in the book. I am not concerned about this myself or for my children, but I wouldn’t be allowed to put this on the shelves in my primary school library because of this.
N.B. I must mention that I reviewed this at the request of the author, who gave me a free copy on my Kindle. Since posting my review on Amazon he has been in touch and has actually edited out the offending words, replacing them with terms more suitable for a primary school readership. I am genuinely impressed at how he has taken this criticism on board and done something about it. Top marks.
The book finishes rather abruptly and without resolution, meaning you have to read the next volume for further enlightenment. I would not choose to do this. Children might.
Having said all this, I think many children will enjoy the book for what it is, and not notice the things that bug me. They will find it funny and exhilarating and a good read. They are unlikely to spend the book shouting ‘why?’ ‘what?’ and ‘eh?’ which is what I did, mostly.