I approached London Eye thinking that it was post apocalypse lite- half the post apocalypse gore and death with a romance heavy plotline. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Lebbon created a London full of cataclysmic adventure. So much so, that despite London Eye being firmly in the Young Adult genre, I found myself eagerly turning pages to read more.
Two years after London is struck by a devastating terrorist attack, it is cut off from the world, protected by a military force known as Choppers. The rest of Britain believes that the city is now a toxic, uninhabited wasteland.
But Jack and his friends—some of whom lost family on what has become known as Doomsday—know that the reality is very different. At great risk, they have been gathering evidence about what is really happening in London—and it is incredible.
Because the handful of London’s survivors are changing. Developing strange, fantastic powers. Evolving.
Upon discovering that his mother is still alive inside London, Jack, his sister, and their three friends sneak into a city in ruins. Vast swathes have been bombed flat. Choppers cruise the streets, looking for survivors to experiment upon. The toxic city is filled with wonders and dangers that will challenge Jack and his friends… and perhaps kill them. But Jack knows that the truth must be revealed to the outside world or every survivor will die.
London Eye throws the reader into a classic hook with an entrance into action and an ambiguous pronoun. Though this is one of my favorite ways for an author to begin a book, the execution leaves me drawing parallels to several ‘how to write for teens’ books. Perhaps it is because Lebbon uses this hook for a couple pages but once we realize the supposed action was indeed a dream, the plot feels to be a bit slow.
London Eye employs an ensemble of characters, many of whom I found to be engaging with some annoying features; however, with every annoying feature each character seemed to become more realistic. For me, characters that make you react and relate to them without you realizing it are some of the best written. Lebbon has a knack for this reactionary character building. For instance, the protagonist Jack consistently repeats that another character is his girlfriend. So much so that I found myself groaning every time I read the word on the page, mentally chiding the character with ‘Ok, she’s your girlfriend, I get it.‘ Each time I did this, I found myself reacting to the character as if he was a younger brother but by half way through the book, I started to relate to Jack not as a random seventeen year old but as an individual. The exact turning point where I related to him was a scene where Jack feels the most adult feeling of nostalgia. Lebbon’s writing is so expressive in this scene that it instantly transported me to the time I felt nostalgia for the first time. The supporting characters are no less interesting; although perhaps one, the aforementioned girlfriend, seemed a tad irrelevant and annoying as an individual. Despite this, she was able to add to the depth of Jack and the other characters that interacted with her. Lebbon’s intuitive and dynamic shaping of the characters made me emotionally invested in them, a feat which is by no means small.
Though I didn’t really understand what the characters were doing and why, I wanted to see what happened to London and the characters once they arrived there. Lebbon manages to remind us of the overwhelming impact of what happened in London no matter what the characters are doing. He does this by filling London Eye with snippets of news quotes at the beginning of each chapter. The beauty in this method is that he kept the sense of urgency without telling us what actually has taken place. We, like the teenagers, are left wondering what is going on in London.
As the story progresses, and the teens make the journey to London, you find that survivors in London have abilities. This is a common idea in post apocalypse plots, a blast involving survivors who obtain super powers, but Lebbon managed to make this idea feel fresh. Each ability featured seemed to be a new take on common archetypes such as healer, damage dealer and the like. One of my favorites is the ability to trace familial bloodlines. In the scene where the teens come across the man with this awesome skill, they jokingly dub him Sniffer. Though one may picture an autonomous nose, this nickname made me understand his bloodline smelling ability. With a few sentences of character conversation, Lebbon lets the reader visualize the ins and outs of this unique skill.
Once in London, the book started to feel better paced, and as many questions were answered, even more became apparent. The world directly affects the characters and vice versa making for a great synergy that urged me to read more. Though it did take half the book of character development and trivial banter to feel like a good read, it did eventually feel so.
Tim Lebbon writes a world that though not innovative, allows us to relate to one character or another and go along for the ride. For those who may shy away from London Eye, the first book in a new young adult series, take a second glance. If you can put aside the character’s ages and take the book for what it is – light reading with a post apocalyptic setting – you’ll be happy you did.