Jack Blank and the Imagine Nation

Jack Blank and the Imagine Nation (Now published as The Accidental Hero)
by Matt Myklusch

Jack resides at St. Barnaby’s Home for the Hopeless, Abandoned, Forgotten, and Lost (crushing the spirit of childhood since 1898). Someone abandoned him there when he was an infant. Jack doesn’t even know his last name; it’s… a blank.

The entire facility gets to go on a field trip… except Jack. He was caught reading comics. As punishment, he must bail out the basement. And as he does that, Jack is attacked by, well, it appears to be a robo-zombie.

And somehow Jack survives the attack.

From there, he’s whisked off by a secret agent to find the secret island only available for dreamers: the Imagine Nation. Here every idea in the real world originates. And here Jack will find his parents… or so he’s told.

Until he discovers he’s a sleeper agent from the only enemy that ever threatened the imagine nation. Until he discovers that the most powerful man of his new home is out to destroy him. Until he discovers that his only hope to survive is to break every law and somehow still save the day.

But Jack’s greatest enemy is someone he can never, ever defeat… unless he wants to also discover the day of his death.

I enjoyed this book. It’s nothing ground-breaking or life-changing, but it’s a fun adventure that keeps the attention throughout.

The book follows a real basic Harry Potter-type outline: Poor, abused boy with no friends finds out he’s actually from someplace special. Trusted but not powerful person from magical place takes boy to his new home. There, he quickly acquires enemies based on something outside his control. He begins schooling in his new abilities, and some teachers love him, while others hate him. In the end, he must break the rules to save the day.

As an outline, it works well. There’s a reason Harry Potter’s such a success, after all, and it’s not just the great characters. The outline functions well here, too. I, for one, immediately bonded with Jack Blank. What reader hasn’t felt alienated in school? And to think that there’s something special about you, something hidden inside… and to have that thing be discovered? Awesome!

I found the Imagine Nation itself a little… well, it didn’t quite live up to its name. Don’t get me wrong, the setting is certainly fantastic, but if the concept is that everything that is imagined in the real world came originally from the Imagine Nation, quite a lot is missing. On the other hand, the world itself is a lot of fun. Several boroughs all surround the center of Empire City. One is an alien spaceport; another a futuristic home for androids. Here’s a meshing of modern and ancient China; there is a place that’s different every place you enter, so you never know where you’ll end up. As I said, fantastic, but missing some imaginative provinces, in my opinion. Rather than being the home of everything that resides in the imagination, it felt much more like the home of everything that comes from comic books. Then again, Myklusch isn’t afraid to show off his nerd cred and his love for comics, so I shouldn’t be surprised.

Myklusch did a great job developing the various antagonists. Jonas Smart, man of the future, makes a credible nemesis for Jack, while the threat hanging in the background the entire novel is palpable. Myklusch creates a neat variant on the Borg or the Cybermen that stands as unique.

Unfortunately, because so much attention goes to Jack and the antagonists, I never got quite so attached to the secondary protagonists. It’s not a matter of them being badly drawn up or even cliché; they just don’t get the attention. It’s not quite as bad as “Oh, there were houses besides Slytherin and Griffindor?” but it’s noticeable. (Though there is a fun Dumbledore-type mentor that really works well.)

You’re looking for a fun adventure with unique villains and great action? This is a good place to go. I will note that you won’t find this particular novel anymore since it’s been renamed as The Accidental Hero. I approve the new title; I think it’s far catchier and still keeps the right feel. Books two and three of the trilogy are out; I’m going to keep an eye out for them. I want to see how this one ends!

I much prefer the new cover, personally.
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