Shadow Web by N M Browne
|Shadow Web by N M Browne
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy
|Summary: A gripping adventure that is great fun to read but also gives pause for thought. Readers are asked to explore the real contemporary issues of war, terrorism and civil liberties, but also to appreciate the value of living in a relatively free society.
|Date: February 2008
|Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Jessica Allendon, Jess, is a typical teen. She wears jeans, trainers and midriff-baring tops. Her room is a mess. She finds homework a pain. She loves surfing the internet. One day, bored of a half-finished essay, Jess does what we've all done at one time or other; she googles her name. A strange namesake appears, and still more strangely, wants to get in touch. This Jessica Allendon says she is a lone wolf in need of a pack. How can Jess resist? So she arranges to meet this lone wolf of a counterpart at Waterloo station. Mindful of stranger danger, she takes her best friend Jonno with her.
Shockingly, Jess and Jessica share more than a name. They look alike; so alike they could be identical twins. And when they shake hands, there is an explosion, everything goes black, and Jess opens her eyes to find herself in another Waterloo station, in another London, in another reality altogether. The basics are the same, but everything is slightly different. The people look the same, but they all have slightly different characters. In this new London, heroin isn't illegal and the back streets are full of smoke houses. In this new London, only propertied "nobs" have the vote. In this new London, there is no welfare state. And as if things couldn't get any worse, Jess soon finds herself embroiled in the politics of the time, and in grave danger. How will she ever get home?
I really enjoyed reading Shadow Web. It's a pacy, gripping adventure and I stayed up an hour too late because I was desperate to find out what happened. It's very easy to read and although it doesn't trouble itself to get too bogged down in the potential paradoxes of alternative timelines and realities, the easy style belies a good amount of thematic depth.
There is much pause for thought in Shadow Web. The reader can compare the rather unpleasant alternative London portrayed with the value of living in a relatively free society. The other Jessica's London doesn't have universal suffrage, an NHS, contraception for unmarried women. It does however, have some similarities with today's London, not the least of which is the danger of terrorism. This enables the reader to consider terrorist versus freedom fighter and the extent to which civil liberties should be curtailed in favour of security - two of today's burning issues.
This is all skilfully and tactfully done though, and the general feel of the book is of adventure, of a strong female central character, and of a rather sweet first love affair. Jess is a feisty, vibrant young girl and Browne describes well how drab and colourless she feels she becomes in the proscribed world for women in London Mark II. As all teenage girls will tell you though, things soon brighten up when you find a love interest - especially when you're living life on the edge with a bunch of freedom fighters!
If they enjoyed Shadow Web Lene Kaaberbol's Silverhorse, set in a post-apocalyptic world in which women have the upper hand. It has a lot more fantasy, but an equally engaging central character.
Shadow Web by N M Browne is in the Top Ten Books for Young Readers That Feature a Passage Between Worlds.
You can read more book reviews or buy Shadow Web by N M Browne at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy Shadow Web by N M Browne at Amazon.com.
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