Sunday, 10 October 2010
Review: The Bad Tuesdays series by Benjamin J Myers
Children everywhere are disappearing.
Orphan, Chess Tuesday, and her brothers, Box and Splinter, don't want to be next. But they are being tracked by two powerful enemy organizations, each intent on destroying the other . . .
Who is good and who is evil? Why do both sides need the Tuesdays? And can anyone escape the hunters?
Chess, Box and Splinter are about to embark on a terrifying mission to find out.
With the global success of Suzanne Collins's Hunger Games trilogy, and awesome series from the likes of Patrick Ness and Michael Grant, dystopian fiction has possibly never been as popular with Young Adults as it is at the moment. The Bad Tuesdays by Benjamin J Myers is another series, this time set in a dystopian future Britain, that really deserves to me mentioned in the same breath as those other luminaries of the genre.
Chess, Box and Splinter live on the streets, and in order to survive they have to steal and salvage whatever they can. In their threadbare, torn clothing, and their unwashed appearance, they are easily identified by the local populace who are more than happy to spit at them or physically and verbally abuse them, so hated are they. Life then is not easy, and is not made any easier by the raids of the Hunters, a seemingly single-minded and brutal outfit whose soul remit is to round up and dispose of these street kid vermin. Children have been going missing all over the city, and the Hunters could be at the root of this.
So far our three main characters have managed to avoid such a raid, but Chess has been getting the uncomfortable feeling that someone is following and/or watching her, and so it comes as no great surprise when the Hunters suddenly descend on the wharf that the street kids call home. However, the three soon find out that there is much more to the Hunters' remit than just removing vermin from the streets, and thanks to the aid of Ethel, an old lady complete with pink cardigan and knitting needles, they find themselves given refuge by a group known as the Committee. Of course, there is far more to this little old lady than meets the eye, and the three young people are very soon thrust into an age-old war between the forces of good and evil. Not that it is as straightforward as that - for the Committee the end seems to justify the means, means that are pretty life-threatening for our young heroes, and so they find themselves stuck in a situation where they really do not know who they can trust at all.
Up against the Committee are the Twisted Symmetry - now these 'people' are pretty damn nasty and whatever the motivations of the Committee, if they are fighting against these forces of evil then surely they must be good? Yes, that's easy for us as readers to say, but we aren't the ones being asked to take on a seemingly suicidal mission into another universe. Oh yes... did I not already explain that this isn't just about a dystopian future, there is also a heavy dose of magic and a liberal sprinkling of science as well. And all of these elements work incredibly well together thanks to the author's skilfully written narrative, as delivers pace and tension by the bucket load.
The standout quality of these books for me though is the characters. At first I found it quite difficult to like them, and I was concerned that if I didn't warm to them soon I probably wouldn't make it through the first book, let alone the three in the series so far. And then, as I began to warm to them, one by one, I realised what a clever move the author had pulled on me. These kids have grown up on the streets; they are tough and as such their personalities reflect this. With this in mind it is right that they do not appear to get along with each other particularly well at times, and bicker and put each other down. Theirs is a dog-eat-dog world with no room for sentiment of the weakness of showing emotion. Splinter, especially, has been the leader for some time, and so he is naturally going to resent it when the groups starts to discover that there is something very special about Chess.
As the story progresses through the three volumes that have been published so far (I believe there is a planned six to the series?), the question of what is morally right or wrong in the fight for good over evil arises again and again. The children are often find themselves having to make very difficult choices, and as readers we feel that pain and doubt that they feel whenever they have to do this. These books will really make young people think, but not to the point where the plot becomes too heavy or tedious. The morality issues are as important as the action scenes, and so even in the quieter moments of the story we know that the tension will soon be racked up and we will be treated to another high octane set piece.
The Bad Tuesdays books have recently been re-issued in the covers shown at the start of this post. They are far more eye-catching and representative of the story than the previous covers which did not portray the edginess of this books particularly well in my opinion. These new covers are also far more appealing to the teenage target audience. My thanks go to Orion for sending me all three of these books to review. Twisted Symmetry (book one) and Strange Energy (book two) have been out for a while; book three, entitled Blood Alchemy, was released on 7th October.