Review of Darkside by Tom Becker

September 17, 2010
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Darkside by Tom BeckerDarkside
By Tom Becker; Read by Colin Moody
6 CDs – Approx. 6 Hours 12 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Bolinda Audio
Published: 2008
ISBN: 9781921415340
Themes: / Fantasy / Urban Fantasy / Crime / London / Werewolves / Vampires / Magic / Kidnapping / Evil / Jack The Ripper /
Your home’s been attacked. Your dad’s in an asylum. You’re running for your life. And there’s nowhere to hide.

You’ve stumbled on the city’s greatest secret: Darkside. Incredibly dangerous and unimaginably exciting. Darkside is ruled by Jack the Ripper’s children – a place where nightmares walk the streets. You think you’re in trouble now, but your problems have just begun…

I usually do a fair mount of research about the books I plan to read. Before I pick one up I’ve usually either heard an author interview, read a review, discussed it with people who’ve already read it, or at least got a recommendation from an author whose work I already respect. But I also know these techniques aren’t a very good way to branch out beyond what’s already familiar to me, and so, every so often I just pick up a book, almost at random, and start reading. That’s what I did with Darkside by Tom Becker.

Maybe one of the initial appeals of Darkside, other than the terrific cover, was that it was from a publisher whose audiobooks I’d never heard before. Bolinda Audio is from Australia. And because of that it’s doing things a little differently. First off, it’s narrators are Australian. And second, they’ve got a lot of authors in their catalogue that I’ve never heard of. That’s cool!

Darkside is an interesting tale in itself. In terms of plot, it kind of falls halfway between two Neil Gaiman novels: Neverwhere and The Graveyard Book. It features Jonathan Starling, an unremarkable misfit fourteen-year-old with an ailing father and a deceased mother. He lives in London and is mostly taken care of by a kindly neighbor woman. Other than her, he’s nearly friendless and spends most days skipping-out of school and hanging out at one of the city’s many libraries. His father, an avid book collector himself, suffers some sort of recurring full body paralysis and perhaps it’s related to some of the books he collects. One day, right out in the open on a London street Jonathan is nearly kidnapped by a seemingly invisible giant and a woman with fluorescent hair. He quickly learns that London isn’t going to be safe for him anymore and so his father sends him away. He is to flee, for his own safety, into the arms of a protector. Jonathan takes with him a knife and a bullet. The knife is for protection from the kidnappers, and the bullet is for protection against his would-be protector, a mysterious old friend of his father’s, a man named Carnegie. Plot ensues.

Where the novel falls short is in comparison to the two Neil Gaiman novels I mentioned earlier. A hidden city within London isn’t really new. And neither is a young kid being protected by a paranormal monster-man. More importantly, Becker doesn’t have anywhere near the mastery of English fiction that Gaiman has. But that’s really not a fair comparison. For my money very few living English authors can compare favorably with Neil Gaiman. Apparently Darkside was written when Becker was just 25! When Gaiman was 25 he hadn’t written a single novel, comic, nor even Don’t Panic, his wonderful biography of Douglas Adams. As a result I think Darkside can stand pretty proudly on its own. It’s quickly paced, pretty fun and most of all it’s got a story that keeps your attention all the way through. Good job new guy.

Narrator Colin Moody, a talent stage trained actor, has an Australian accent, except when performing the dialogue of the characters. When in character Moody cowls him reading with various Londoner regionalisms. There are many sinister sounding villains in this novel and he voices all of them extremely well. If you’re a voracious reader looking for swiftly plotted urban fantasy novel (for the juvenile set), and you’ve already read both Neverwhere |READ OUR REVIEW| and The Graveyard Book |READ OUR REVIEW| do check out Darkside. Series fans will also be pleased to hear that four more Darkside novels follow this one, and that Bolinda has the “audio sequel forthcoming.”

Posted by Jesse Willis

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