Walter Sorrells' Erratum is aimed at readers ages 9 to 11, but I can't imagine reading, and enjoying, this book when I was eleven. It was a fascinating novel. I just don't think I would have understood many of the concepts in the book, a story that covers everything from string theory to quantum physics to dark energy.
Jessica Sternhagen was different. Even her mother said, "There's something different about Jessica." The seventh grader didn't like sports or have many friends. She didn't quite fit in with her family or most of the people in Alsberg, Minnesota. While many of the residents only read Pork Processing Monthly, because the economy depended on the local sausage factory, Jessica liked to read. And, it was at a new bookstore, that just seemed to spring up from nowhere, that she found a book called Her Lif, a book that told of Jessica Sternhagen's life in 621 pages. But, when she flipped to the end, she found out she was killed in the bookstore. When she saved herself, the ending of this odd book changed.
When Jessica showed the book to her best friend, Dale McDuffie, the ending indicated that they went to the Map Room at the local library, the biggest library in the world, built by the owner of the sausage factory. Between the information they discover at the library, and a fortune cookie, Jessica and Dale learn she is the "guardian of the true and correct universe." What if every time you made a decision, it affected your world, changing it? Jessica is told that her decisions, and Her Lif, have that power.
It's an unusual book, with a villain who introduces himself, saying, "I'm the villain." There's a hole that can suck everything up, and destroy the universe. And, Jessica and Dale see their lives change, as Jessica's actions now change the past, which changes the present.
"Erratum is a writer's or publisher's error in a publication; such errors or a list of them with corrections." Her Lif is a book filled with erratum. Each time Jessica changes course, the book corrects itself because books are word machines that can be used to change reality. As a reader, book lover, and librarian, it was upsetting, and fascinating, to watch the burning of the books, and the library. The President told the people they didn't need books, while one of the librarians told Jessica that "Books hold our memory." In order to take over the world, "They're taking our memory first," by destroying the books. Without books, the President had ignorant citizens, obedient zombies without memories.
String theory, the universe, books as memory, black holes sucking up the universe. It's all fascinating. Would you give it to most readers ages nine to eleven? I doubt it. Just like Her Lif, Walter Sorrells' Erratum needs to find its audience.
Walter Sorrells's website is www.waltersorrells.com
Erratum by Walter Sorrells. Penguin Group, ©2008. ISBN 9780525478324 (hardcover), 288p.
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