The young adult genre seems to be moving beyond vampires. They’ve toyed with werewolves for a while, but I think those creatures are being left in the past like their fanged cousins. Now it seems like anyone who really wants to write young adult is going dystopian (thank you, Hunger Games). To be honest with you, I don’t get the thrill with dystopian or after-the-big-catastrophe plots, but whatever. It’s what the public wants, and the authors are delivering. Now, I’m not saying that to gripe, I’m saying it because I think people should know my general disposition toward this stuff before they read my review of Tim Lebbon’s London Eye.
London Eye will appeal to many readers because of the after-the-catastrophe aspect of the plot that so many are into right now. It’s also short, weighing in at 280 pages. This is a book a dedicated reader could probably blow through in a day. That’s a nice change from the thickness of many novels in the speculative fiction genre. It’s also one of the biggest crutches the book leans on, and I’m not sure it’s up to the task.
The problem with short novels is that the author has very little time to develop characters, the world, and the plot. Unless the author uses a very deft hand some of the necessary elements of the book might fall short. Unfortunately, that is the case here. There just isn’t enough time for Lebbon to develop the characters, world and plot adequately. Due to this, London Eye never really gains a level of depth I usually look for in books.
While the driving urge to find family at any cost is innately human and an aspect of the plot that will appeal to nearly anyone, it’s not enough for the book to float on. There are hints, and short discussions regarding the history and what has befallen London, and some very interesting social and cultural changes are touched on. A little more length to the book would have allowed the author to really explore the event and the history preceding it with a lot more depth and vigor than he had a chance to in London Eye. This is an important point to me, as much of the book hinges on the events that caused these changes in London to happen and not being able to really explore the history in depth took a lot away from the book that could have tightened the plot quite a bit.
Furthermore, as with most dystopian novels, the government is controlling citizens for its own nefarious reasons. This is a very typical and tired plot device, and it generally works here for what Lebbon’s purposes. However, it also caused me to have some believability issues. While the government is testing and controlling the altered people trapped in London, there is no mention of why other countries in the world are letting it happen. With news feed clippings from the incident starting each chapter, it’s obvious that the world knows something happened and that people are dealing with the fallout, so what is their reaction and why aren’t they trying to help? That’s what generally happens in the world after a disaster, and there is no mention of it in London Eye, which really strained my ability to believe many aspects of the book.
As I mentioned above, much of the book hinges on the protagonists finding their families and nearly constant thoughts of whether or not they are alive and if so, how they have survived. While this is well and good, and it will appeal to most everyone’s sympathies, something else needs to be added to London Eye to keep the reader a bit more interested, and diversity almost never hurts. While Lebbon does dabble with some side plots and hints to other, bigger issues, London Eye is just too short to adequately explore all of these avenues in ways that this book would have benefitted from.
A short novel also tends to mean that aspects of the plot are rushed when they don’t need to be: specifically and usually the ending, as is the case here. This is unfortunate. Due to the lack of exploration in the world, the history, events, and the fact that this book was too short to fully develop characters and side plots, London Eye falls rather flat. Without that necessary exploration, I closed the book wondering what the point behind everything that happened really was. That’s not a feeling I like to have when I end a book, and it’s not one the reader should be left with. It’s unfortunate, because Lebbon has a knack for prose, and the foundation of London Eye is secure and has huge potential, but it just doesn’t live up to that.