Author: Richard Paul Evans
Title: Michael Vey: Rise of the Elgen
Publisher: Mercury Ink

There’s a simple reason for it. Richard Paul Evans is a Number One New York Times best-selling author because he knows how to tell a story.

In the rapidly expanding world of teen fiction, Evans has crafted a franchise in Michael Vey, eponymously named after his main protagonist, which manages to be both a sort of literary comfort food and suspenseful thriller.

Rise of the Elgen, Evans’ second installment in his popular Michael Vey series, charges straight from the gate with a clever plot summary from Evan’s previous book, The Prisoner of Cell 25, and a quick review of the special electrical talents held by a small group of electrified teenagers. Whereas Evan’s series launched with their escape, in Rise of the Elgen, the Electroclan, as our teen heroes call themselves, sets their sights on freeing Vey’s mother, who has been captured by the megalomaniacal Dr. Hatch.

Except the Electroclan needs to figure out where Vey’s mother is being held. And then they need to figure out how to keep from being re-captured themselves. After all, Hatch is holding Vey’s mother as a lure, knowing Vey and his friends will risk their freedom for her safety. Integrity and love may be two qualities Hatch does not himself possess, but he knows how powerful they can be for his enemies.

From Idaho to Peru, the Electroclan faces one harrowing obstacle after another, narrated mostly through the boyish yet increasingly mature Vey. The plot itself is not complex, but success depends on each member of the Electroclan putting their unique electrical aptitudes to good use at the right time. Throughout his story, Evans’ selection of these aptitudes proves reminiscent of our Gospel’s analogy of the church as a body, and how even competencies which might seem insignificant really aren’t.

In keeping with its target audience, pizzas, Hummers, some angst, and some romance make obligatory appearances throughout Evans’ book. But so do some surprisingly relevant factoids about geography, the Peruvian jungle’s ecosystem, and, of course, electricity. Perhaps the one subject about which we learn the most, however, is a subject some readers will find utterly gross: rats.

Yes, those disgusting rodents play a crucial role not only in Hatch’s scheming to rule the world, but also in his plans to eradicate the Electroclan. If you have a squeamish stomach, Rise of the Elgin will quickly morph from a thriller to a horror story, as Evans seems to take a perverse delight in detailing how rats provide fuel for the Elgin’s power stations, and how humans provide fuel for the rats.

Indeed, you won’t get the munchies while reading this book!

Evans claims he’s parlaying his Michael Vey series into six novels, which despite his prose skills, seems unreasonably long for what reads like a fairly cut-and-dried storyline. That makes his ending for this second volume neither cliffhanger nor teaser; it comes off more like a weedwacker running out of plastic string.

For believers in Christ, it will also be frustrating – albeit normal for a secular novel – to endure this story’s underlying theme: good people uniting for a common cause and being rewarded for their goodness.

“My mother always said that if you do the right thing, the universe comes to your aid,” Vey rhapsodizes to his friends. “I don’t believe that whatever brought us this far brought us to fail.”

The evil our heroes encounter in the nefarious Dr. Hatch makes him an appropriately devilish figure, but minimizing his danger with platitudes of goodness doesn’t work in the real world.

Nor can any of us generate our own power to do good.

Fortunately, however, our power doesn’t come from rats, either.

*This Review First Published 9/19/2012