Boy In The Tower
By Polly Ho-Yen
Published by Doubleday
ISBN 978 0857533036
This book is a story of fear and hope, loneliness and friendship. But what the blurb doesn't mention are the killer plants that wind their way through the corridors and up the deserted stairwells of the tower block where the young narrator lives with his sick mother.
The plants advance slowly and surely, and the reader's grip on the book gets tighter. There is no wasted time in Polly Ho-Yen's superb sci-fi debut. The setting is tight, the plot builds with confidence and the narrator is utterly engaging.
Ade and his mum live right at the top of a tower block. It can get a bit lonely up there, but Ade loves to spend hours sitting at the window watching the whole city unfold down below. Ade has watched people going about their daily lives for as long as he can remember.
Things are pretty quiet in the flat since mum fell ill. She has stopped cooking meals and doing the housework and singing the songs she always used to sing. In fact, these days she hardly gets out of bed. Ade doesn't know what to do, so he watches the world outside. But suddenly that starts to change.
One day, one of the other tower blocks on the estate crashes to the ground and Ade watches the chaos and mayhem this causes with disbelief. Have some of his school friends died in the disaster? Is his best friend Gaia still alive? Then another building collapses and then another. The world around Ade's tower block is disintegrating under his very eyes.
And then gigantic plants start to spring up and grow at an alarming rate. Where have they come from? It looks like the plants are pulling the buildings down and their deadly spores are preventing the emergency services from helping people.
Is this only happening in the area where Ade lives? The residents are deserting the tower blocks, and soon Ade is stuck alone in his flat because he can't leave his mother. Who or what can rescue him?
Ho-Yen has written a thrilling story with Boy In The Tower, but her masterstroke is the narrative voice of the boy at the centre of the story. He doesn't understand what is going on around him and this adds a fascinating dimension to the plot that moves the novel along.
Taking place in an urban environment that many of the novel's readers will immediately identify with, Ho-Yen's debut novel is a captivating read about an ordinary boy facing a tough struggle to survive.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com.