22 August 2010


The Maximum Playlist

In my strange mission to write about books without actually turning out any reviews, I return to James Patterson's Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment. So far, the novel has inspired a Reading Diary entry and a spot on a Peter Pan-themed Three-legged List. Now I'm going to make another short list, this time entirely focussed on Patterson's novel, which seems to me to be screaming for a playlist. Why it has turned out to be an exclusively 90s playlist has me slightly bemused; but I know that all the songs fit.

Robbie Williams' Angels was a really obvious choice because of the title and the allusion to beings traditionally depicted with wings. But the connection goes deeper because both the book and the novel explore the theme of freedom, and in particular, its relationship with unconditional love. Angels makes me picture the flock of six flying above a thick carpet of clouds into the setting sun--emphasising not the adventures which are to come, but the closeness of the ties they already have.

I really should get to the next book in the series soon . . .

3 (Other) Songs for
A "Maximum Ride" Playlist

(Notice the way I'm cheating and having four songs?)

Ironic by Alanis Morisette

Okay, so it is probably single-handedly responsible for a whole decade of school-aged children getting the concept of irony absolutely wrong. And so?

Max is a strong leader to the rest of her flock. She deserves more than a regular theme song; she merits an anthem. Ironic fits the bill because it's a song for people who understand that "life has a funny way of bringing you down when you think everything's okay" and another "funny way of helping you out when you think everything's gone wrong." That is, it's a song about the way people deal with sad stuff when they keep striving after the happy. Ironic doesn't quit; and neither does Max.

Ode to My Family by The Cranberries

But speaking of the sad stuff . . . Understand what I've become/ It wasn't my design . . . This is a song about child abuse, which is the same shadow that falls over the whole Maximum Ride series. The children seem all right because they are a functional family and have great super powers (and more importantly, an intact sense of humour and ability to love) . . . but we all know they're really not.

The root of any child abuse is the betrayal of an adult, usually one's parents. In the middle of the story, some of the flock learn that their own parents gave them away to "the School" so they could be experimented on; but others discover that they were actually stolen from their parents, who were told they had died. It is after this point that they realise they have something better to do than to stay beneath the radar all their days: they must find the truth about themselves.

Bullet with Butterfly Wings by The Smashing Pumpkins

If you're wondering what this song is doing here, that's because I haven't told you about the Erasers yet. Our winged heroes aren't the only experiments from the School; they are just the ones who manged to--and indeed, always wanted to--be free. Another group of children have been given canine (lupine?) DNA, and they are intensely loyal to the scientists at the School. The flock know them as the Erasers because of their violent training games that involve "erasing" some other failed experiments from the face of the earth.

But with their unusual beauty, super strength, super speed, and enhanced ferocity comes a trade-off: a life span of only a few short years. Despite all their power, all their badassness, or even all their rage, yes, they are still also rats in cages. This dark, nihilistic song is for them.


Carolina Valdez Miller said...

I LOVE this song. It's one the playlist for one of my manuscripts :D

Enbrethiliel said...


I think it's great when writers have playlists to go with their novels. The first author I noticed who has this habit is the Romance writer Julia Quinn. All her musical selections are so interesting. I don't know if I, as a reader of her books, would say they fit; but I love the insight they give into what she was thinking of her own work, as she was writing it.

Thanks again for stopping by, Carol! =)

Sullivan McPig said...

I love the last song! It's one of my favourite songs by the Smashing Pumpkins. And glad to hear I'm not the only one thinking the ironic song is giving a weird definition on ironic.

Enbrethiliel said...


It's definitely my favourite Smashing Pumpkins song. Nothing else comes close. I found it very poetic when it first came out (and still do), but I was a bit surprised when I listened to it again while drafting this post. It combines lyrics of great despair with very defiant music--as if the speaker/singer doesn't quite believe he is "just a rat in a cage." Very interesting . . .

Sullivan McPig said...

Hmmmm, never thought of it like that. I've always felt the rage more. He knows he's a rat in a cage, is angry about it and wants it to change, but his rage doesn't change his situation, that's always been my take on why the music and singing is so defiant, to give voice to the fact he's still fighting his restraints.

Enbrethiliel said...


I guess it's just that I never find this song depressing, despite the story in the lyrics. For someone trapped in a cage, he seems very powerful to me.

Cozy Book Nook (Lesa) said...

So that is why your sorta bookish blog is my favorite--- you are writing about books without writing reviews. What a novel idea! ;o)

I really don't read many reviews and I don't write many either-- Our musing posts at Mrs. BG are more fun and get more comments than review posts-- D and I noticed that if we muse in a review post or tie it to something in our lives, it will get more response.

I'm going to think on your approach and share it with D-- maybe we can come up with a nonreviewish way to write about books too.

btw, I mainly like your blog because I like you-- if you were writing about amoebae, I'd probably still read.

Your blog is so fun and interactive-- it needs to go viral so you can sell adspace and get rich like PW.

Enbrethiliel said...


Thank you, Lesa! I'm honoured and humbled to hear that my blog is someone's favourite!

I also prefer musing about books to reviewing them formally. It makes reading more real, you know? (Yes, of course you know: you do it, too!) After I read a book, it can stay with me for days, and then I "see" it in other books, movies or even songs. That was what happened with J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan; and it's happening with Maximum Ride, too. For me, posting a review is like saying, "I have spoken! Case closed!"--which is never the case for me. I just keep jabbering on. =P So I blog the way I read/think. I'm really touched to hear that you enjoy it as much as I do.

(And I sort of blogged about amoebas the other week, when I wrote about "Weird Al" Yankovic's Carnival of the Animals -- Part 2. LOL!)

Ah, to sell ad space and live off the fat of my blog!!! A lovely dream! ;-)

Mrs. DeRaps said...

Great song choices--I looked at both the Smashing Pumpkins and The Cranberries when thinking of a song for my book...I love your blog!

Enbrethiliel said...


Welcome to Shredded Cheddar, Mrs. DeRaps! Thanks for following. =) Don't you love it when books and songs just fit? =D