Title: London Eyes
Book One in the Toxic City Series
Author: Tim Lebbon
May Contain Spoilers
I am a little torn about how I feel about this book. It was slow to pick up, but once the action started, it didn’t let up. Until that ever unpopular with me brick wall of an ending. This one screeches to a halt, without even the slightest hint of resolution or completeness. Even worse, the ending opens up multiple story threads that need to be explored in the next installment. While I don’t mind series, I do not like all of these non-conclusions. Nothing is wrapped up, and the story lurches to a stop just as things were getting really, really interesting. It’s like waiting in line at Cedar Point to ride the Gatekeeper, getting to the front of the line, and being told that the ride has to close due to inclement weather. Come back next year for your anticipated thrill ride. I am so not a fan of these kinds of endings.
London Eye is being billed as Hunger Games meets the X-Men. Once Jack and friends enter the forbidden, toxic city of London, they are met with one life-threatening misadventure after another, and Jack is willing to risk his own life to discover the fate of his parents. They were in London during the terrorist attacks that left it an empty husk of itself. The only people left alive, everyone is told, are horrible monsters. The city has been completely shut off, with no electricity or access to fresh food. People can not travel in or out without being picked up by the Choppers. When Rosemary, an old woman with healing abilities, offers to sneak Jack and his friends inside, he jumps at the chance. He needs to know what happened to his parents, and he won’t rest until he finds out the truth.
Beside the ending, my biggest complaint with London Eye is the pacing. It is much slower than I’ve become accustomed to in YA dystopian novels. If I didn’t like Jack and his younger sister Emily so much, I don’t think I would have stuck it out. The story doesn’t pick up until about mid-way, and it ratchets up to crazy sauce (in a good way), the last 25 pages. Which made the non-ending even more of a let-down. I am getting to the point that I don’t even want to start a series until most of the books are already out, due to my ever growing levels of impatience. With the deluge of titles hitting store shelves every week, I sometimes feel that my reading needs would better served if I held off on series until they are complete. I am still stinging over the increasingly long wait times between GRRM’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels. Yes, I am one of those entitled readers who expects closure from every book I read. I like endings, and I need closure.
Jack and his friends don’t believe the government’s spiel about what happened in London the day the terrorists attacked, releasing Evolve, a biological weapon that sickened and killed most of the city’s residents. Those who survived were changed, turned into dangerous monsters. Jack knows in his heart that his parents are still alive, and he just wants to find them and bring them home. He has been struggling to raise his younger sister, and he knows that they both need their parents. His friends Sparky and Lucy-Anne also want to discover the fates of their relatives who were in London during the attacks. When Rosemary shows up, they throw caution to the wind and agree to make the dangerous, forbidden journey into London with her.
As far as the world-building goes, I found it a mixed bag. I liked the idea of a deserted London, where enhanced humans hide from the vicious Choppers, a government body that captures and dissects the Irregulars in a vain attempt to discover what makes them tick. As Jack and his small party infiltrated the empty streets, however, I didn’t get a sense that it was all that dangerous to sneak from safe house to safe house. It wasn’t until the end, during a bloody encounter with the Choppers and the terrifying Superiors, that I felt invested in the danger of the story. Prior to that, it seemed to me that if you just kept your head down and crept around like a mouse, you wouldn’t draw much attention to yourself and you could just lay low, so I didn’t buy into the hazards of being trapped in the ruins of London.
While I didn’t feel completely engaged in the plot until the end, I am invested enough now that I want to see what happens next. A sense of urgency and a clear and present threat to Jack’s continued survival was finally, firmly, engaged at the end. I wonder how he will save all those he cares for, and fend off the Choppers and the terrifyingly powerful Superiors. I do feel, though, that this book and next could have been combined for a more complete and finished story. Your mileage will more than likely vary.
Review copy provided by publisher