February 10, 2012

Best Authors You Aren't Reading: John Peel

Best Authors You Aren't Reading is an IBWB feature. In it I discuss authors who I don't perceive as being popular, but whom I truly love.

I cannot possibly cover John Peel's entire bibliography. For one thing, I haven't read everything he's written! But there's a good chance if you read a TV tie-in during the nineties that you came across at least one of his books. He's written books for Doctor Who, Star Trek, The Outer Limits, The Secret World of Alex Mack, Eerie, Indiana, and more. But those aren't why I'm recommending John Peel today.

I'm not recommending him for his horror either. I've never tracked down the Foul Play series and the only standalone I've managed to collect is MANIAC.

Book CoverBook CoverSo, which of his books can I talk about?  I can discuss  THE SECRET OF DRAGONHOME, for one. It is currently out of print, but you can order it on Amazon for a cent. THE SECRET OF DRAGONHOME is Peel's most topical novel since he just self-published its sequel THE SLAYERS OF DRAGONHOME.

(Sorry I can't get Amazon to display the cover. Annoying, I know.)

I first read THE SECRET OF DRAGONHOME in the sixth grade after discovering it in the junior high's library, to my great joy. You see, by that point I was already a Peel fan. And favorite author + dragons = good things. THE SECRET OF DRAGONHOME begins when "Talents" Melayne and Sarrow flee to a neighboring kingdom to escape persecution. Melayne takes care of the widowed Lord Sander's son, but finds that their new home has its own secrets. It's a terrific fantasy, with just a touch of romance, and I was quite excited to hear that there was a sequel.

Book CoverBook CoverBook CoverBook CoverBook CoverBook Cover

I first discovered Peel through the six-part serial 2099, way back when I was in fifth grade. I ordered DOOMSDAY through a Scholastic book club newspaper because the cover was shiny. (The blurb was about 25% of the decision.) It was late 1999 and everyone was going crazy about Y2K. (Youngsters, think about the current Mayan Apocalypse craze.) 2099 projected a future world in which everyone depended on their automated systems - the perfect playground for a bored and amoral hacker. Each book was short but burned through plenty of plot, much like the television version of The Vampire Diaries. Also like The Vampire Diaries, there were a lot of identical people running around. That's right. 2099 was full of clones. Just like dragons, everything is better with clones.

And know what crazy trivia I recently discovered? Peel wrote 2099 at the request of David Levithan.

I always loved the backs.

Book CoverBook CoverBook CoverBook CoverBook Cover
Book CoverBook CoverBook CoverBook CoverBook Cover

The best thing about the 2099 series might be that it led me to Diadem. Diadem told the tale of Helaine, Pixel, and Score, three teenagers taken from their worlds and told they have magic powers. Not a new plot, but a well-executed one. Diadem meant a lot to me, back in the day. It drove me to write fanfiction with my best friend. No lie, we have a binder filled with a 200-page epic that will never see the light of day if either of us have anything to do with it. (It has twelve precious years of our snark in the margins, mocking our awful writing when we were eleven.) The news, in 2002, that the series would be reprinted and continued by Llewellyn was ridiculously exciting.

The original Scholastic covers

I read the series rather piecemeal. My mom gave me the first book THE BOOK OF NAMES, having bought it at a book fair as a present. I found the fifth book at the local used bookstore, then received the second and fourth for Christmas. (My mom had to order them from Amazon, which was special in those days.) The third and sixth were out of print, but I finally hunted them down in a used bookstore. This was one of the greatest triumphs of my young live, since the BOOK OF MAGIC contained the conclusion of the first arc and the BOOK OF NIGHTMARE's resolved the fifth's cliffhanger.

The first page of puzzles

It's hard to say why I loved the books so much that I would put a great deal of effort into tracking them down and writing silly things about them. It might have been that Helaine, one of the three main characters, could defeat either of the boys in a physical contest. It could have been the puzzles; I've always loved solving puzzles. (These were written by David Levithan! Unfortunately, they disappear after the fifth book since Levithan was no longer an assistant.) It might have been the culture clash caused by all the world-hopping. I don't know.

I just know that the books were terrific and it was the first time I bonded with someone over a book. It's sad that most of Peel's stuff is currently out of print, but in the days of the internet it is fairly easy to find his books. And believe me: they're worth it.

John Peel's books on the shelf and in good company.


  1. Homgsh, I recognize these covers from the days I was in elementary! xD But I never picked them up.

  2. You should've! I do think Scholastic pushed Diadem for awhile.


Thanks for commenting! To reduce spam I moderate all posts older than 14 days.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...