Review: London Eye
My first introduction to Tim Lebbon was in the SWORDS & DARK MAGIC anthology (EBR Review) a while back. In a collection of stories full of absolute WIN, Tim Lebbon’s “The Deification of Dal Bamore” was one of the best. After that I read ECHO CITY (EBR Review) and was similarly impressed. Lebbon’s ability to write Horror the way Miéville writes Weird Fiction is astounding.
And then I heard Lebbon was going to write a YA novel, and it would be published through Pyr SF&F. Holy anticipation, Batman!
LONDON EYE (Amazon), Lebbon’s YA novel, is the first in a series that follows a group of teens as they enter London in search of their families, and the truth about what really is happening in the city. You see, London isn’t what it used to be. A terrorist attack poisons the city, killing a majority of the people there (just imagine the numbers) as the city is quarantined.
The setting is the the first thing that jumps out. I love the idea. I love that London has been quarantined, and the mystery surrounding it. The characters in the novel all wonder what really goes on in that poisoned city, and it sets up the mystery and suspense well.
This being a YA novel, the characters are the most important part of the novel. It is my opinion that all great YA novels have one thing in common: strong, likable characters. In the few works of Lebbon’s that I have read, it usually took me a bit to warm up to the characters. LONDON EYE is no exception. For whatever reason I just couldn’t make myself care too much about the teenagers. Jack, the main character, just didn’t draw me in. Neither did his kid sister, or his girlfriend, Lucy Anne (who becomes ridiculously annoying in the last part of the novel). Two other friends round out the group, but I never really felt they mattered much.
Can you see why this is an issue to me? All of the characters are just… there. They are stuck reacting to every situation, and really never make any actual decisions on their own until the end of the book–literally, the very end. They begin making active decisions, and the book just ends. In a book that is so short, hardly anything happens. The teens go into the city, get attacked, meet a few of London’s survivors, then the book ends. I wasn’t left thinking about this book once I had finished it. I turned the last page, closed the book, and moved on to the next one. For me, this all comes down to the characters not holding my interest.
All this said, there is a lot to like in LONDON EYE. I’ve already mentioned the setting. Did I mention the paranormal elements? Yeah. See, this poison (or whatever it actually is) that caused untold numbers of people to to die also evolves a small number of humans. They develop powers that allow them to heal, seek out bloodlines, employ telekinesis, use voices as weapons, control animals…you name it, someone can do it. To go along with this is a group of people–Choppers–that hunt out these evolved survivors to capture and experiment on them. It’s all very grim and horrific.
This leads me to my next criticism. I can’t help but feel like Lebbon was holding back. He does the weird and horrible better than most authors. It is one of his greatest strengths as an author. In LONDON EYE it feels like he is just about to do something awesome… then remembers he is writing YA. The perception while reading is that Lebbon is worried about his ideas being too much for the readers. The novel is already for the upper end of YA–what the cool kids call New Adult–but it ends up in a sort of limbo. I do think that as Lebbon writes some more YA, he’ll find his stride. I mean, he’s freaking Tim Lebbon.
LONDON EYE, when you really look at the full body of work, feels like the first half of a novel. Right when things started to get interesting, the book ended. I was left wondering if my ARC was missing 150 pages. The setup is good, but by the time a sequel comes out, I worry that any small measure of interest I had in the characters will be lost. The setting and paranormal elements were enough to carry the story for me, but I feel like we are missing out on a huge amount of potential so far.
Will I read the sequel? Probably. I do want to see what happens next. I want to see Lebbon really grab this new type of novel (for him) by the horns. I trust Lebbon, so I’ll give this series another chance. I just wish the “sequel” had been the second half of this novel so there was the tiniest bit of resolution.
- Recommended Age: 15+
- Language: Fairly strong for a YA novel, but not frequent
- Violence: In some scenes, Lebbon goes absolutely crazy. He lets loose. Then in others he totally holds back. Inconsistently, insanely violent.
- Sex: These are older teens in a dystopian future. They talk about sex, and have sex. Nothing detailed, but it's there.
What do you say? Want to give this a shot?