Thursday, September 29, 2016

Book Review: Annerton Pit

Title: Annerton Pit

Author: Peter Dickinson

Date: 1977

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press

ISBN: 0-316-18430-6

Length: 175 pages

Quote: “Granpa had been dead lucky, not just because his mining company had had to pay him quite a bit for being sacked so unfairly, but lucky to get out at all. If he’d nosed a bit further (Dad said) the odds were he’d have finished up dead at the bottom of one of his mine shafts, instead of being free to wander round Britain explaining away other people’s ghosts.”

I recently asserted that when science fiction is about an adaptive device that helps people with disabilities, it’s obligatory that the plot involve someone with a disability who uses the device to save some person, or planet. This thriller is not technically science fiction, nor is it primarily about an adaptive device, unless we count the adaptive powers of the mind. “Though Martin was almost eighteen and Jake five years younger,” Jake’s blindness becomes an asset when he and Martin rescue their Granpa from kidnappers who have stashed him in an abandoned mine.

Annerton Pit stands out in my mind as an instance where the blind character’s confidence in a dark place is nicely handled, as an asset not a super-power, along with his current rather small size. Jake, Martin, their Granpa, and the local police all help one another; the story merely happens to be told from Jake’s point of view. Jake is a cool character, though, almost entirely free from self-pity, very practical about facts like “People never think a blind child might be lying.”

Although this story was meant to be accessible to intelligent twelve-year-olds, maybe even ten-year-olds, Dickinson’s wide vocabulary and fast pace keep the adventure moving fast enough to entertain adults who have not already read it. As action-adventure stories go, Annerton Pit rates high; it’s too bad that the plot’s reliance on absolute pitch-darkness during most of the action makes the story hard to imagine as a movie.

What I physically own is a hard-worn library copy of the first edition, which has a different jacket design than the new edition Amazon is currently promoting, and lacks the biography of Peter Dickinson (when my copy was printed, he was still a living and private person). I'm not terribly keen on the idea of choosing new editions over used editions of books by deceased authors--if Dickinson were cashing in on the new edition it'd be worth buying it, but since he's not...well, you might want the biography anyway; click on the picture to buy that edition from the person who took the photo. Amazon doesn't show a photo of the older version. If the original jacket is good enough for you, send $5 per book, $5 per package, and $1 per online payment to the appropriate address at the very bottom of the screen. (Salolianigodagewi is not a Paypal address; it's the e-mail address from which we send Paypal addresses to purchasers.)

This web site has been using "wheelchair access" as the label for posts about all disability issues. I think there may once have been a reason for that. I don't think there still is one. Google is making some changes in the setup of this web site, mainly to make it easier to read on cell phone screens; during the next few weeks I'll find out whether it's possible to change the label for this whole topic to "disability."