I had very high hopes for Tunnelsby Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams, as the plot seemed a little bit different. Will lives with his dysfuncational family in London. His mother can't stir herself from in front of the TV and the household is run super-efficiently by his rather silent and contained sister Rebecca. Will's museum curator father is a bit distant but the two enjoy a relationship over what you might call extreme archaeology: they tunnel deep, deep into the ground. And then one day his father goes missing.
In the end I was a bit disappointed. The plot is indeed excellent, unpredicatable, original and nicely twisty. However the narrative voice is flat and the overall impression is a book written by committee. Which with two authors it nearly is. Many of the sentences are the same length (medium, with a couple of sub-clauses) and the narrative never changes pace to suit the plot, which sloows, eveeeery thing right down. There is nothing wrong with any of the sentences individually but the relentlessness of the slow voiced tone wears you down a bit:
As they slunk through the streets, ducking behind cars when anyone appeared, they felt alive with the thrill of the forbidden mission at the museum and couldn't wait to look at the journal they'd unearthed.
There is nothing in the tone of that sentence to suggest haste or excitement or thrills. It is so sure and measured and faintly bored.
The real shame is that it is not that terrible, and descriptions can be sharp and original:
They had the appearance of of a band of malnourished orphans that had been pulled out of the canal and then left to dry in the wind.
I just wish someone had sharpened up their pace and tone before it was published in this format (it was previously self-published) and frankly cut the first third or so of the book down siginificantly too as it takes too long to discover the parallel colony.
The long sentences and advanced vocabulary make it a hard book that is suitable only for confident readers, and there is a high level of violence, whch makes it suitable only for the oldest, most robust readers in our age group. It won't appeal to all, but for those children who like fantasy and adventure that is very plot driven it will be a success.
In teaching a small group of brighter teenagers it would be interesting to see what they make of the failings in the writing style and an obvious task is to re-write one of the plot filled chapters with more style and verve!
Violence: Will and his friend stumble on another parallel community and they are tortured till they are physically sick. Will gets out but for much of the book Chester is stuck in prison. Other violence includes several fights (one is fatal), and a vicous mauling by a dog, the death of a brave and beloved pet in a fight, and descriptions of the kind of horrific deaths that totalitarian states might well devise.
Peril: lots, and constant, from the middle of the book to the end. As there are fatalities and tortures this is not empty peril either.
Religion: the parallel society have a sort of parallel parody religion which is not a force for good. This is not particularly dwelt on however.
Bad Language: occasional. The word piss is used once for example.
Romantic relationships are not touched on.
Anything else?: Some characters smoke. There is also some drinking of alcohol including children being given alcohol by adults.
Summary: A difficult adventure book that is definitely not for the faint-hearted and with significant faults of style. There are more in the series, though I am not left with the rushing need to get hold of the next one.
Philip Ardagh in The Guardian.
Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog who makes some darn good points about the lack of narrative control especially in the first half.
Guys Lit Wire Book Blog which shows why some might really like this book despite its faults.