Albert of Adelaide by Howard Anderson

Every once in a while, it’s nice to read something different, the type of book that one doesn’t usually read. Albert of Adelaide is decidedly different, and probably not like anything that most people usually read, because it is such an unusual novel. This debut novel is fun, full of adventure, and is about a platypus named Albert who escapes from the zoo in Adelaide and heads into the Australian outback looking for a place called “Old Australia.” Yup, that certainly sounds like a different kind of novel, but despite being different, it’s definitely still worthwhile.

That also happens to be one of the main lessons in this story – that just because someone is different, it doesn’t mean that they are bad. Albert’s journey brings him to an odd world with creatures who judge and mistrust him because he’s different from them. His early life was traumatic. His mother was attacked by a wild dingo when he was very young and Albert was captured and put in the Adelaide zoo. This is where he first hears rumors of a mythic and strange place called “Old Australia” where the many different species of animals live in peace and harmony. He was able to escape and hops a ride on the South Australian Railroad traveling north of Alice Springs to the outback.

Albert meets a wombat named Jack, who befriends him and teaches his some of the basics of survival in the desert. The two friends get into some trouble at a local pub and trading post when Albert gets very drunk and becomes very lucky at a game of chance. To escape Jack sets fire to the place and he and Albert are soon on the run with the kangaroo proprietor and other local animals posting wanted posters for Albert’s capture. Despite the fact that they’ve become good friends, Jack and Albert split up figuring it will be safer for each and Albert soon meets a new friend, TJ, a raccoon from California. Their friendship works well because they are both animals not native to the outback. Other creatures that Albert meets along his journey include two drunken bandicoots named Alvin and Roger, a mean and thieving pair consisting of a wallaby called Bertram and a possum named Theodore, assorted dingoes, and the Famous Muldoon, a Tasmanian devil. Muldoon and Jack were close friends and traveling companions once, but Jack’s pyromania led to their separation eight years ago.

Themes of friendship, revenge, survival, loss and self discovery are set against the backdrop of Albert’s journey across the outback desert. The story alternates between scenes of action (including many fight scenes and a huge shoot out at the end) and those of survival in the harsh environment and contemplation of life in a strange place among strange animals. In the end, Albert has come a very long way from where he started, both geographically and metaphysically.

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