First, here are today’s stops on the River Road virtual tour.
I’m being interviewed at The Dark Phantom site today, talking about writing process and other authorly things. There’s also a promo-only at Boekie’s Book Reviews. These are both “official” tour stops so you can enter for the Kindle or Nook (or gift card) giveaways, as well as comment for the commenter prizes (see column at right).
This has not been a good reading year for me. I think I might have read six or seven books all year—and I’m not sure I finished all of those. Pathetic, huh? In my own defense, I did write three books and release four, so it was an unusual year all the way around. But I’m vowing to do more reading and there’s no time like now to start.
First up: London Eye, the first in a new post-apocalyptic series from Tim Lebbon that the publisher describes as “The Hunger Games meets X-Men.”
ABOUT LONDON EYE: Two years after London is struck by a devastating terrorist attack, it is cut off from the world, protected by a military force known as Choppers….The rest of Britain believe that the city is now a toxic, uninhabited wasteland. But Jack and his friends, some of whom lost family on what has become known as Doomsday, know that the reality is very different. …At great risk, they have been gathering evidence about what is really happening in London, and it is incredible. Because the handful of Londons survivors are changing. Developing strange, fantastic powers. Evolving.
A SCENE I’D READ TWICE: When our young survivors are on their way to London to look for family members who’ve been missing since the terrorist attack, they come to a huge field called the Barrens and only when they’re crossing it do they realize it’s a mass grave layers and layers and layers of bodies deep. Because it’s so well “fertilized,” there are riotous plants beginning to grow. Pretty chilling stuff. Runner-up: A scene from near Parliament, and the descriptions of some of the city’s most famous landmarks.
I DIDN’T QUITE BUY: Our band of heroes—the teen survivors we follow throughout the book—weren’t quite as three-dimensional as I’d like. I also had to suspend some serious disbelief when the young sister (age nine) of one of the boys keeps filming things with her little handheld camera. I liked that she was doing it but…seriously….my iPhone charge only lasts a few hours if I do a lot of photos and filming with it, and we never saw her changing battery packs or trying to charge it. Still, a relatively minor quibble that probably says more about my OCD than the book itself, and maybe battery packs are better in 2029, when the book is set.
THE WORLD: The worldbuilding is awesome. We’re handed just enough information to hook us in as readers, and then Lebbon does a masterful job of feeding us new nuggets of info as the teens learn about what’s happened to the isolated city of London (since they weren’t in London at the time of the attack, they’ve only heard of things through the underground—and a lot of what they’ve heard isn’t true). London is hit by a terrorist attack at the London Eye that releases a biological agent called Evolve. Most people die. The ones who survive–and it isn’t clear why some survive and some don’t–begin to, well, evolve. They begin developing superhero skills such as healing and much less benign attributes. Others, the Choppers, begin to capture the evolving people to do experimentation on them. Brain dissections, anyone? Actually, if anyone remembers the TV show “Heroes,” it’s more like that so far than “X-Men.” There are a lot of directions this worldbuilding can take the story, so it should be a rich series.
THE CHARACTERS: I found it hard to really bond with our band of survivors as much as I wanted to. Meeting five or six characters at once, as we do in the beginning, plus having a shifting point of view, means it’s hard to really stay in anyone’s head long enough to start caring about them. While so much of the YA I’ve read wallows in too many overwrought emotions, this doesn’t quite give me enough, and I found myself wishing the whole book had been in Jack’s point of view since he’s the best developed of the kids. I was really happy to see us in a male character’s POV through most of the book, so those books are definitely in a minority.
GENERAL THOUGHTS: Overall, I really enjoyed this as the first book in a new series, with all the setup and worldbuilding that entails. I’d definitely pick up the second when it comes out. I’m a sucker for a good dystopian and Lebbon’s background in writing urban fantasy comes through here. It doesn’t fall into the melodrama we find in so much YA fiction, although I wish it had a bit more emotional development than it did.
[DISCLAIMER: An advance copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review.]
Want to win a copy of London Eye? I have one to give away to one commenter. Would you rather a book err a little on the “too much emotion” side or “too little”? Up to five entries possible: +1 for comment, +1 for blog follow, +1 for Twitter follow, +1 for a Tweet or RT about the contest, +1 for a Facebook follow. Contests end at midnight CDT U.S. on Saturday.