By: Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams
Published by: The Chicken House, 2009

A year or so ago I wrote a review of a promising new series initiator, the first Tunnels Series book, aptly called Tunnels.

While admitting this book wasn't even in the same universe, let alone league, as the Harry Potter franchise, I did find the premise interesting - a colony of humans who have taken to a world below the surface of the earth - and the characters interesting enough to engage my sympathies.

Where this next outing is concerned, I'm going to start my article off with a small rant. Where, oh where are the book editors these days?

Writers have a lot to do to simply create a story - weaving together a plot, good dialogue, intriguing scenes and believable characters. Editors, once upon a time, would help them by finding grammatical or stylistic errors, thin moments in the plot, or even outright inaccuracies.

Given the speed with which a "new best seller" is supposed to be turned out these days, it's no wonder that writers get sloppy - all the more reason for editors to be on top of their game, making sure the book is the best it can be before it gets in the hands of readers.

Not so this book.

While the writing in the first book was nothing to swoon over, it was workmanlike, and didn't call undue attention to itself.

In this book, I was forced to read sentences over and over not so much because I couldn't understand them as because the word choice was so odd it made me wonder if I had missed the point of the sentence.

Sloppy elocutions aside, the book takes us, as promised, deeper into the world and lives of the colonists. We pick up where we left off in book one, with hero Will Burrows, his Colonist brother Cal, and his best friend, Chester, hurtling, well, deeper into the underworld on a miner's train.

At the same time, we are also following Will and Cal's natural mother, Sarah Jerome, who has been hiding out Topsoil (that is the colonist's term for above ground) for years and who is captured and returned to the Colony by Will's adopted sister, Rebecca, and her Styx companions (a kind of elite Police class of the colony); and the story of Will's adopted father Dr. Burrows, who has traveled down to the Colony and beyond in a frenzy of scientific inquiry.

In this book, we are also introduced to the Coprolites (I have to say I don't quite understand the choice of names for these harmless, if bovine people - coprolites are literally fossilized excrement), and to the Renegades, escapees from the Colony society, people who live by their wits and courage out on the fringes of the populated underworld. Among them are the stalwart Drake and his protégée(and Will's love interest), Elliott.

The immensity and darkness of the deeps are even more apparent in this book than they were in the first; the evil and sheer nastiness of the baddies (Rebecca and her Styx crew) more pronounced. Will is faced with finding his center in terms of what he is there to do and his relationship with the various characters in his party.

What I liked about the book: the world depicted is fun and fascinating - yes, if I had a chance I'd want to go explore it.

What I didn't like about the book: aside from the aforementioned literary awkwardness, the plot and characterizations seem rushed and shallow. Where Harry Potter shines is in the way you can both relate to Harry, and actually shake your head in dismay when he acts like a spoiled brat, Will just never makes it as a well-rounded hero. He is neither a straight-out heroic hero, nor a three-dimensional anti-hero like Harry.

Some reviewers have also noted that the book is unnecessarily long, and I'd concur. With all those pages, a few more of them could well be spent adding to the layers of our characters in ways that helped us know them better, and care for them more.


debnance said…
Yes, and if you think books like this, published by major publishers are bad, you ought to see books where editors are literally nonexistent. Eek.

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