So first of all, I am thrilled to be writing this review right now. I love love love books and it is my personal belief that the best part about reading is talking about it with someone else. I think talking about reading makes the experience a lot more meaningful. Us book folk have to stick together right?
I am currently obsessed with Young Adult Dystopic Fiction, so I literally jumped at the chance to read The Tube Riders by Chris Ward. The story takes place in futuristic Mega Britain where a corrupt and terrible leader called the Governor has been ruling for over 40 years. He is hell-bent on bringing Mega Britain to the forefront of space exploration while keeping his country a big secret from the rest of the world.
In the name of the Governor and his space initiative, London has been reduced to a violent slum, which sports very high perimeter walls to keep all residents in. It is a scary place to live. Guns, knives, and screwdrivers are essential tools of survival. People are reduced to doing unspeakable things simply to put food on the table. The citizens live in constant fear for their lives. No one is spared the tragedy of losing a loved one whether it’s due to untimely and brutal death or mysterious disappearance.
Ward’s story centers around a group of misfits called the Tube Riders. The only way that Marta, Paul, Simon, and Switch have found to cope with the dismal circumstances of their lives is by engaging in the dangerous pastime of riding the trains in the Underground. Using a device called a “clawboard,” this group runs after the incoming train, jumps, catches the rail, and then rides and jumps off before the train disappears through the exit arch. Little do they know, this will be the very skill that will save them all later on.
All goes wrong when a rival gang, the Cross Jumpers, show up to their abandoned Tube Station to ambush them. The Cross Jumpers, led by a woman called Dreggo, are jealous of the infamous stories and whispers about the Tube Riders and aim to eliminate them once and for all. In an attempt to flee the Cross Jumpers, the Tube Riders catch a train and hang on for dear life, dismounting at what they think is the next abandoned station.
A case of wrong place, wrong time gets them into more trouble than they are prepared to handle when they witness a government assassination, which they conveniently tape on one of the country’s last contraband digital cameras…
If news of the assassination got out to the public or worse, the world, then Mega Britain would have a revolution and world war on its hands, neither of which the Governor wants.
So, we have The Tube Riders (who are being pursued by the Governor), a team of secret agents, Dreggo and her Cross Jumpers…and because they don’t have enough to deal with, let’s add the Huntsmen. Huntsmen are the Governor’s high tech super killers. Hybrid human/ dog/ computers who have super strength, super smell, and no remorse. Their targets are the Tube Riders. These bloodthirsty beasts will not stop until they bring their prey, and anyone connected with them, to their brutal and violent death.
What follows is a long game of cat and cat and cat and mouse as the Tube Riders attempt to flee to France with the information of the assassination. The Tube Riders try their best to hold their pursuers off at every turn. Along the way they learn that the assassination they witnessed is only the tip of the iceberg and the Governor’s reign goes much deeper than even the terrible Huntsmen.
I have to admit that I felt very overwhelmed while reading this book. The story weaves in and out of each character, not only the Tube Riders but also the Governor, Dreggo, two agents, a Huntsman, and many other characters we meet along the way. None of these characters were free of baggage, and serious baggage at that. That, combined with the colorful street language and necessity of survival, is enough to make anyone’s head spin.
But, despite the fact that I felt emotionally drained each time I put the book down, I still kept going back for more. It was slow going, but well worth it. At the core this story had a very solid plot, which meant that no matter how many characters there were or how sad their plight, it was all held together by a cohesive thread. That thread, I think, is that each of these characters were real. Everyone from the sinister Governor to the street wise Switch had elements of both good and evil. These people exist in our world, which makes them all the more interesting. I imagine that there will be another chapter in The Tube Riders series and I for am looking forward to what comes next.
3 out of 5 Stars
The Tube Riders by Chris Ward
eBook: 624 pages
Special thanks to the author for my review copy!