The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles: Field of Death
by Les Martin
Published by Random House
Adrick's Rating: 2.9 out of 4
Young Indiana Jones will do anything to be where the action is! A new name, a new birth date, a new identity get him to France and right into the thick of World War I. As Corporal Henri Defense, a Belgian courier, Indy carries messages between two different wars: the safe war at staff headquarters, where generals plan battles on maps. And the real war in the trenches of Verdun, where soldiers die in appalling numbers. Indy is horrified by what he sees. And he?s desperate when he learns his wounded buddy, Remy, is being sent back to the trenches. How can he save Remy from certain death?
Young Indiana Jones?you?ve seen him on TV in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, traveling the world as a kid and a teen, encountering some of the best minds and biggest events in history. Now read about him as he defies the dangers of World War I, based on the television episode ?Verdun, September 1916.?
Believe it or not, we?ve already reviewed an adaptation of this very episode?which has become, now and forever, the first half of the movie Demons of Deception, available on the Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: The War Years DVD collection, yadda yadda?before on TF.N. The first part of James Luceno?s novel The Mata Hari Affair not only adapted this episode, it expanded it with additional scenes and characters.
So just how many adaptations of this episode of a somewhat obscure television show are there, and why is this one worth reviewing? Well, to answer the first question, there?s still the comic version. Please don?t throw things at me. Thank you. To answer the second, it?s because this is a darn good adaptation. Even though it?s just a television tie-in for young adults, and even though this territory was covered very effectively in another tie-in work, Les Martin didn?t settle for a straight-up novelization of the episode.
Martin had previously written for the Young Indiana Jones book series, which anticipated the edutainment nature of the television show, so he knows the character pretty well and doesn?t minimize the importance of the historical events and characters. He pulls no punches when he describes the horrors of war, or the pathetic grandstanding of the high ranking army officers. This is impressive in a book aimed at younger readers. There are also some scenes in this novel that can?t be found in Luceno?s book or either of the televised versions. The longest of these scenes has Indy facing down Death itself, which is pretty ambitious. There?s also a brief but interesting section with historical notes, and a nice looking map at the beginning, both of which would make this a good choice for young people studying World War I.
Although I?m really impressed by the quality of Martin?s writing here, this isn?t a must-read book for anyone except interested students and the most dedicated of Young Indiana Jones fans. For anyone else, I?d have to recommend Luceno?s Mata Hari Affair or one of Martin?s original Young Indy stories over this one.
One problem in writing a young adult adaptation of Indy?s adventures is the relentlessly PG-13 nature of them. Still, I could find only one major change to accommodate younger readers in this book?but it?s a pretty hilarious example. In the hospital scene Indy brings his friend Remy chocolate instead of cigarettes. So it?s acceptable to let kids read about soldiers dying by the thousands via machine guns, bayonets, and cannon, as long as they don?t smoke? Right.
The best part is, though, that if you look at the inevitable photographs tucked away in the middle of the book, you?ll find a picture of the hospital scene that clearly shows Remy with a cigarette in his mouth. Cover your eyes, kids!