Almost totally riveting;Children's books

5th March 1999 at 00:00
WHIZZIWIG RETURNS. By Malorie Blackman. Puffin pound;3.99.

DANGEROUS REALITY. By Malorie Blackman. Doubleday pound;10.99.

Taken together, these novels show just how versatile Malorie Blackman is - able to move easily from comic fantasy for younger juniors to technological drama for over-l0s.

Whizziwig Returns is a sequel to the wonderful story in which Blackman introduced the alien who only grants the accidental wishes we make for others. In the original, Blackman seamlessly wove the theme of unselfishness into the comedy; in the sequel, in which Whi* zi-wig returns to write a report on Earth, the humour is more slapstick and the narrative episodic. But the story has its moments, as when a teacher's wish that his pupils could speak like Shakespeare comes true.

Dangerous Reality is also a return to familiar Blackman territory: contemporary technology and its ethics, specifically the computer technology that she dealt with so memorably in Hacker.

Dominic tells the story of his attempts to save his mum's invention, the Virtual Interactive Mobile System, from a saboteur. Blackman constructs a sub-plot about family and friendship around Dominic's attempts to come to grips with the differences between people and machines, simulation and reality.

In both these books, though, the second visit to the territory is less successful than the first. In Dangerous Reality the story takes unexpected turns at the end, but the writing lacks the tautness of earlier novels like the splendid Pig-heart Boy. Blackman not quite at her best - but still well worth reading.

Michael Lockwood

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