Remember how I changed my mind about “Titanium Mike Saves The Day” after I got past the first page? Well, the same thing happened with “Children’s Crusade,” by Robin Wayne Bailey, only it went in the opposite direction.
A boy, Ari, is kneeling in prayer, ignoring hunger without complaint. Then his uncle Abad gives him a package: a bomb he’s supposed to deliver to a mosque. Why Ari? He can “shift,” or teleport. I was intrigued, looking forward to a story treating the Iraq occupation from the other side.
The trouble is, Ari’s powers make everything too easy for him. Planting bombs. Escaping. Helping people. Finding other children who can “shift.” No matter what pain or exhaustion we are told he is feeling, no cost can make him stop. The unbelievable (like their cause sweeping the world without question) piles on the coincidental (like the American general who tracks him just happening to speak perfect Farsi) and the inconsistent (like Ari’s ability to speak English coming and going at random and never being nearly as bad as we’re told it is.)
As with Safeguard, I liked the way the meaning of the title shifts. In the opening, Ari could be a young squire about to go on crusade, until you find out that’s he’s Iraqi. As he and his friends gather children from far and wide, the title refers to their efforts for world peace. But there’s a darker meaning of the title; the real Children’s Crusade (if it was real) ended horribly for the participants. Which might be just yet another reason I thought this story was ridiculous.
An example of how superpowers can turn into one long wish-fulfillment story.
Tomorrow:More ill-fated attempts to save the world.