Thursday, 2 May 2013
Review: Lost Worlds by Andrew Lane
Calum Challenger is a boy with a mission: to track down supposedly mythological creatures and capture their DNA. But while Calum and his friends want to save these beings, an aggressive pharmaceutical company wants to wipe them out. In this fast-paced, high-tech story, Calum and a group of misfit mates – a computer hacker, a freerunner, an ex-marine and a girl with a very big chip on her shoulder – criss-cross the globe, desperately trying to stay one step ahead of their enemy.
I totally love Andrew Lane's Young Sherlock Holmes books, as long time readers of this blog will know from the glowing reviews I have given every volume in the series so far. I am also an avid reader of what I tend to refer to as adult quest thrillers (by the likes of Scott Mariani, Matthew Reilly, Chris Kuzneski et al). So when I found out that Andrew had written a modern-day quest-style thriller for a younger audience I couldn't help but be excited, especially as there is a link between this story and another of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's greats.
Main character Calum Challenger is the great-grandson of Professor George Challenger, a character who first appeared in Doyle's The Lost World. He lives alone in a converted warehouse in London, having lost his parents in a car crash some years earlier. So far, so heard it all before I hear you saying. However, Calum was also in that car crash and did not emerge unscathed, for he is paralysed from the waist down and therefore rarely leaves his modified home. Instead, he spends hour after hour searching the internet using a fantastic (and expensive) computer set-up, hunting for sightings, rumoured or otherwise, of cryptids. Cryptids are creatures that are either long extinct or merely rumoured to have existed, but whose existence has never been proven or acknowledge by science. Calum believes that many of these supposedly mythical creatures really exist, and may have genes that could hold the cure to cancer, and many other modern diseases. And perhaps even a way to regrow his nerves and give him back the use of his legs.
Calum's mission is a solitary one, until one day a Brazilian boy called Gecko comes crashing into his life. Literally. Gecko is a very talented freerunner, but his skills have come to the attention of some Eastern European gangsters who want to utilise him to carry out robberies. Whilst racing across the London rooftops, Gecko is caught by surprise, and the next thing he knows he is sitting on a sofa in front of a very shocked Calum. Almost at the same time, fourteen-year-old hacker Tara Flynn is being blackmailed by the mysterious (and sinister) Nemor corporation into hacking Calum's website. With a little help from Gecko, Calum brings Tara into the fold, and it isn't long before the adventure really starts, with this unlikely team of outsiders heading off to Georgia with an ex-special forces chaperone, in search of a yeti-type creature that may be the missing link between neanderthals and homo sapiens. And naturally, the evil forces of Nemor are in hot pursuit.
Lost Worlds is a thrilling and hugely enjoyable read that I raced though in an afternoon. This is the first in a new series from Andrew Lane, and as such a lot of time is spent setting up the characters and their situation. The adventure itself then does not start until we are pretty much two-thirds of the way through the book. Some readers, especially those who are lacking in patience, may not have the staying power to stick through this first part of the book, although I feel that Andrew Lane has done such a great job with his characters that many reluctant readers will persevere, and enjoy the technology-filled story.
Once the action reaches Georgia and the action kicks in we are treated to an adventure that races along at breakneck speed. And this is where I faced one of the biggest disappointments I have experienced in a book for some time. The story simply does not finish in any way I would have expected from a writer as good as Andrew Lane. I'm not talking about a thrilling cliffhanger that sets us up for the next installment, I mean it just seems to peter out. As I was getting nearer to the end of the book I started to worry that the story would end with our heroes trapped and facing likely doom, like in a classic Republic serial - I just couldn't see how Andrew Lane could possibly bring the story to a satisfying end in the rapidly diminishing pages I had left to read. And he didn't. It's almost as if an editor told him that he had to stick to 350 pages, even though the story was 380 pages long. Even writing about it now, several days later, I'm still a little angry about this - it turned what would have been another 2013 five star book into a book that I have rather generously given four stars to on Goodreads, but on reflection may change to three stars. Be warned, I have a long memory Andrew Lane - I expect a return to form in the next outing for Calum Challenger and his merry band of misfits.
Yes, you read that right. Despite my frustration at the ending (or lack thereof), I will definitely be reading any Lost Worlds sequel. There are plenty of threads left dangling that have me wanting more, and I loved the three main young characters of Calum, Gecko and Tara.
You can find out more about Lost Worlds at www.panmacmillan.com/lostworlds where you can read an extract of the book, as well as enter a competition to win an iPad mini. My thanks go to the lovely people at Macmillan for sending me a copy to review.