Titanic 2020: Cannibal City by Colin Bateman
|Titanic 2020: Cannibal City by Colin Bateman|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: If people continue to wonder why I like to read teen fiction, I shall just point them in the direction of this brilliantly styled, energetic and gripping adventure book. Beyond that, they'll be on their own.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: June 2008|
|Publisher: Hodder Children's Books|
Nobody would normally mistake the Titanic for a liferaft, would they? Especially not the new, modern version launched in the year 2020. She is big (again), is unsinkable (again), even has an ice-rink. However a liferaft is what she has become, as between her departure from Belfast and her first landfall in the US the Red Death has plagued and devastated the world. Nowhere is there a community not affected by the death and disease, and the fallout is catastrophic. The cruisers are left on the Titanic, dipping into new-found ports of call on the Eastern seaboard, transporting people and giving pockets of them medical help when they can safely do so.
On board the boat, among many others, are the two main characters of the book, Claire, who is travelling with her father, the boat's very owner, and Jimmy, who stowed away partly by accident and is now the editor of the shipboard newsletter. They have a very sparky love/hate relationship, as evidenced by the very sharp bantering between them. Her personality is fiery enough to see a bit of Hitler or Stalin in the discipline onboard when her more feminine side is offended.
But their troubles start on a trip to shore. While trying to do their investigative journalism thing, they miss the tender back to the Titanic, get mugged, shot at and more. Claire gets back on board, where her troubles certainly do not end, and Jimmy finds himself passenger on a most unusual train.
What follows is an adventure thriller, with the emphasis on the adventure, of the highest calibre. The plotting was supremely interesting, taking me to places I certainly didn't expect – even to the slightly surreal by the end. It's a plot that isn't actually as gory and grisly as it pretends to be, but it still warrants a slight alert that I would make this a 12+ read.
Beyond that is the brilliant style. So vivid, so sprightly, so lively and bang-on for the target audience. It's not a style that's incredibly quotable, but it really went a great way to making this book the success it was for me. It only made me want to ask why we can't have something like it in so-called adult fiction, for it would be a breath of fresh air to many. It also allows scope for the ditzy, utterly illogical mother Claire endures, which many would consider OTT in another kind of novel.
Another example of how superlative the writing is in the aforementioned banter between the teens. It's such a rare thing for it to work, it's quite delightful. It's so sharp and dryly sarcastic as to be almost on the verge of the unrealistic, but it's just used to perfection. So often it comes across as needless bickering, and a shoddy way of putting character conflict and contrast into a book. Not at all here.
While we're on about superlatives, I cannot think of any character being introduced to a novel as effectively as one here is brought to life – and about which I'll say no more. And I cannot remember any part two or three that has made me want to rush back to the start of the series with as much urgency as this one.
In fact it's hard to imagine, given the start of this book, that the prequel would be anywhere near as complex, engaging and enjoyable. There is a way of reading this – certain scenes in particular – for the militarised USA and more, but this works comfortably as a fine, dramatic read. The plot flips from Jimmy to Claire often, and every time it works – with no jarring crunch as one story meets the other, and no lack of natural-seeming hiatuses to make us plough on.
The whole book in fact zips by, and even when it seems to set up a conclusion of some inevitability it still surprises. I relish the fact I have no idea how many other books there are in the series, and especially that I cannot predict where Colin Bateman will go from here.
I won't allow the book to think it is a 100% success however. I think Ty's luck at the end is too abruptly done, I don't think the sun-through-the-trees worked at all, and it really seems to be that the idiot tea-boy got to do a job Debs was told to do the day before. But those are the merest of distractions. For a book I really was not too sure of at the beginning – especially with it being a sequel – I am left with no option but to give it a full five star recommendation. For teens wanting a future, post-catastrophe epic, that has a twinge of borrowing from classic films but provides a most novel novel instead, I can think of no better purchase.
I would definitely like to thank Hodder for sending the Bookbag a review copy.
Another book we've enjoyed recently, which might also be suitable for slightly younger readers is The Name of this Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch.
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