Tunnels by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams
Publication: The Chicken House (December 10, 2007), Hardback, 467 pages / ISBN 0439871778
Genre: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, YA
Rating: 2.5 birds
Find @ Amazon or IndieBound
Challenges: Countdown 2010 (2007 #2)
Read: October 2009
I’ve seen this book on bookstore shelves for at least a year now, and every time I almost bought it. The cover is so nifty and the premise is so interesting that it must be a great book, right? Unfortunately, I had a lot of problems with it. So many, many problems and I’m glad I didn’t buy it (got it from the library instead). There’s some good ideas in it, but the longer the book goes on the worse I found it, and by the end I wanted to throw the book out the window.
Summary from Amazon:
14-year-old Will Burrows has little in common with his strange, dysfunctional family. In fact, the only bond he shares with his eccentric father is a passion for archaeological excavation. So when his dad mysteriously vanishes, Will is compelled to dig up the truth behind his disappearance. He unearths the unbelievable: a subterranean society that time forgot. “The Colony” has existed unchanged for a century, but it’s no benign time capsule of a bygone era. Because the Colony is ruled by a merciless overclass, the Styx. Will must free his father–is he also about to ignite a revolution?
My main problem is that I think the book suffers from lack of focus. Who’s the main character? Will? His dad? Is there more than one protagonist or is it an ensemble cast? None of this was made very clear, and it wasn’t until about a third of the way into the book that I decided that Will must be the protagonist and every other POV shown was just to provide some more info on whatever situation those characters are in. Will’s dad, for instance, gets quite a lot of “screen time” in the first half of the book, as does Will’s sister and Chester, his best friend. Now, I don’t mind when a book has more than one POV, or even more than one protagonist (like Faerie Wars, for instance), but it has to be set up in a way that I can immediately spot who the important people are and who isn’t. The POV switching was so messy that I honestly got really annoyed– omniscient narrators are one thing, but lack of clarity is another.
My next problem with the book is that the characters are so boring. Even Will, who is potentially the most interesting character (he eats rocks!), is somehow boring. His dad is the worst offender, though: the man’s an archaeologist and he digs up all these interesting things and he’s got a almost-mad-professor kind of thing about him, but he’s dull.
The whole book is sort of on the edge of being really great, but it gets bogged down with all this crap. I’m not even going to talk about the plot holes, okay, but they’re there, and they bugged me.
By the time I got to about 100 pages from the end I was really fed up, and so I actually took a break of about two weeks before finishing it. I probably shouldn’t have left it so long because when I finally did start reading it again I was feeling pretty hostile and didn’t enjoy the ending at all. And now as a whole I’m feeling pretty blah about the whole thing, you know? Huge disappointment.
So, what did I like? Eh. I liked how Will was an unusual protagonist, and I found him really interesting at first. He’s obsessed with digging into the earth, he chews on rocks to figure out what kind they are, he carries around a shovel like it’s a sword, and he’s in love with old stuff. He’s also got an albino-like complexion, and I haven’t read many books with albinos (or near-albinos).
I liked the underground city thing. I’ve read quite a few books with underground cities, but this one was unusual in that it’s nearly entirely cut off from the topside and the people who live down there have a completely different culture than the topside people. They also have kind steampunk/sci-fi technology that’s really cool, and crazy-scary secret police dudes, and horrible table manners. And giant cats who act like guard dogs!
I likes how it was a bit darker than I was expecting. Will and Chester get into some major trouble while underground, and it’s not glossed over. I’m talking psychological torture, physical torture, starvation, etc: it’s not super detailed but what was in there was horrifying. They’re kids and these psychotic police guys are torturing them! Sheesh.
So, I did like some stuff. But unfortunately the stuff I didn’t like couldn’t pull this book out of the “meh” realm for me and I don’t see myself reading any of the other books any time soon.