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Albert of Adelaide: A Novel    by Howard L. Anderson order for
Albert of Adelaide
by Howard L. Anderson
Order:  USA  Can
Twelve, 2013 (2012)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

If you enjoyed reading Watership Down by Richard Adams, Animal Farm by George Orwell or Anatole France's Penguin Island, I think you'll find this novel by Howard Anderson an entertaining read.

Set in Australia, this totally original, genre-bending story doesn't fit cleanly into one category. Part western and part fantasy, the novel also brings together elements of the road-novel with the animal parable. The embedded themes include what constitutes a friendship, the importance of loyalty and what personality traits go into making a real hero.

The story's protagonist, a duck-billed platypus named Albert, has just escaped from the Adelaide Zoo and he's determined to discover the fabled Old Australia which is reputedly a place of freedom, promise and peace. On his journey through the outback in search of this questionable utopia Albert will meet a cast of original and unusual characters.

There's Jack, a pyromaniacal wombat, Roger and Alvin, a pair of hard-drinking and vaguely gay bandicoots, a motley posse of kangaroos led by the bartender Sing Sing O'Hanlin', and a former wrestling champion named Muldoon, a Tasmanian devil. Besides these key characters you'll also meet an assortment of dingoes and a few other fascinating critters.

As with so many stories that feature talking animals, this one began twenty years ago as a bedtime story for a child. Although Howard Anderson has worked as a Hollywood scriptwriter for a short while and written some short stories and non-fiction, this is the first time the 69 year-old New Mexico resident has published a novel. And, as is sometimes the case, he's hit a home run his first time up at the plate.

Waddling through the outback with this unassuming and, at times, almost reluctant hero, you'll enjoy a series of strange encounters that not only propel Albert forward on his journey but also illustrate the roles fear and prejudice can sometimes play in our daily lives.

This mild-mannered platypus will have to continually adjust to his new environment (he's more comfortable near water) as well as the other critters he encounters. Slow to anger, you'll discover that when fully aroused Albert can be just as dangerous as some of the animals he meets.

Like any journey, this outback trek alters the central character. 'Old Australia had changed Albert in many ways, some for the better and some for the worse. Albert hoped that someday he would have the time to sort out which was which.' Actually, you'll have to be the one to sort this out and decide which is which!

The reader will also quickly realize that this is one of those delightful and absorbing narratives that can be taken on a number of levels. You can just accept and enjoy it as a rousing adventure novel with lots of action, or spend a little time chewing it over to see what deeper meaning can be attached to the tale. It's pretty much your call, but either way you won't soon forget the time you spend with Albert of Adelaide.

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