“Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment”
by James Patterson
read by Evan Rachel Wood
published 2005 by Hatchette Audio
Approx 4 hours

The master of thriller fiction, James Patterson, has been know to dabble in young adult fiction.  The “Maximum Ride” series is one of those dabblings.  With books under his belt like, “Along Came a Spider,” and “Kiss the Girls,” Patterson has shown that he can write a good thriller, and he takes that writing style and adapts it for the younger audience.  I’m not sure what age he’s aiming for with this series, it seems pretty wide open from 12 – 18 easily.  I know I enjoyed this first book in the series.  There were some moments that didn’t work for me but I’ll explain those later.  For the most part if the rest of this series is as fun and exciting as this first one, I could put up w/ what may be a minor fault.

First off the choice of Evan Rachel Wood as reader took me by surprise.  But hey, she did it.  I know it takes acting skills to pull off reading an audiobook, and she does have the skills, but what surprised me most was her vocal range.  She was able to separate the characters very well with her voice, giving them each their own voice.

This book introduces the listener to six fugitive kids; Max, Fang, Iggy, Gasman, Nudge, and Angel, known collectively as the Flock. The kids were genetically mutated in utero in a laboratory called “the School”, that rendered them 98% human and 2% avian.  The Flock is being hunted down by human-lupine hybrids created by the School called “Erasers”.

Max (she named herself Maximum Ride) is the one telling the story, and she tells how Jeb escaped the School, with the flock and hid out in the mountains and raises the children for two years. Jeb disappeared leaving the flock to fend for themselves.  One day the Erasers find them and take Angel.  The flock must fly to the school to rescue Angel.  One thing about Angel, she has the ability to read minds and later we find she can also put thoughts into someone’s head.

On the way to the School, Max sees a girl on the ground (bird vision?) being threatened by some thugs.  She tells the flock to fly to a safe place.  She flies down to rescue the girl.  The flock may be young but they look older because they are bigger, and on top of that they have stronger than human strength.  In the rescue Max is hurt in the struggle and finds herself at the home of the girl she helped.  The girl’s mother is a veterinarian and fixes her wounds.  The vet takes max in for some x-rays and discovers a chip implanted in Max’s arm, a sort of tracking chip that is so deeply embedded that it cannot be removed.

Max meets up with the flock and they go on to rescue Angel, but they manage to get captured by Erasers themselves and discover that Jeb is the one behind the capture. The book then moves on to escape and the flock seeking to discover the truth about their creation.  Max is told she must “save the world,” and begins being led by a voice in her head that disrupts electronics.

The story seems to be fast paced and the adventures take a short time to move on to the next part of the journey, which I see as being aimed at a younger audience.  My problem is that when, at times, when a major fight/battle seems to be eminent, all fighting just stops and the enemies just leave, with no victor to be had.   Maybe this, again, is for the younger audience, but it seems these moments could have been closed out better.

All in all though this is a fun adventure in genetic mutations and kids seeking their origins.

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