London Eye (Toxic City Book One)
by Tim Lebbon
Cover Artist: Steve Stone
Review by Jon Guenther
Pyr Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781616146801
Date: 02 October 2012 List Price $16.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Tim Lebbon's first solo young Adult novel is set in a near-future (2021) London, cut off from the rest of society by a terrorist attack that releases a toxic virus called Evolve. With that basic premise, Lebbon exposes the reader to an entirely real and terrifying society under a sort of martial law from the Choppers, a specialized para-military force assigned to keep people out. Or is it to keep something else in?
Determined to find their respective loved ones and at the behest of a survivor of the attack who has acquired special abilities, five young people embark on an adventure into the heart of the devastated city to learn the truth.
Many of the chapters begin with brief media segments that gives hour-by-hour updates as to what happened to London during the actual attack. This made for an interesting, if somewhat vague, look at how the city was transformed. The occupants of London and the results that occurred from the spread of Evolve provide Lebbon with an eerie and picturesque place in which to stage his adventure. This setting works on a number of levels, especially in light of the fact that Lebbon has purposefully chosen the Hero's Quest as the literary device in which to spin his narrative.
Where I think the book will appeal to younger readers is in the breadth of characters. Since younger readers of today tend to feel like loners. They will be able to highly identify with a young group of characters cut off from what might be deemed normal society. There is content within the book, however, that were it a movie I'd give it a rating of PG-13.
There was some under-development in the conflict between our questing heroes and what I presupposed would be the villains in the story, the Choppers. While this took away key aspects of the tension for me, there were other points where they fought monsters and encountered other characters with special abilities that provided sub-story elements with enough conflict to move the story. This bode well of the author's ability to keep me reading. I also found the results behind the release of Evolve (details omitted to prevent spoilers) made Lebbon's post-disaster London very interesting although there was little in the way of scientific explanation behind how this occurred. Perhaps the author will give readers a deeper insight in later books.
While I found London Eye quick and easy fare, I had some difficulty with the author's style. One of cons for me was Mr. Lebbon's habit of describing something from the viewpoint of the character, then reiterating the exact same description through dialog. For example, at one point he has a character looking out a window and describes everything observed, then another character asks: "What do you see?" and a reply in dialog of what had already been described. The other con was the shifting of viewpoint within a scene, creating an omniscient narrative that felt much like author intrusion. While these techniques might have been more glaring to my sensibilities as a writer and not a reader, I did feel it interrupted the story flow.
Overall I liked the book but I reserve judgment on its ability to spawn a popular series. I feel it could go either way. Still, the novel surprised me on a number of levels and I think it will appeal to an audience ages 13-18.