Title: Down Station | Series: Down Station #1 | Author: Simon Morden| Publisher: Gollancz | Publication date: February 18th 2016| Num. Pages: 351 | Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia
4 stars – A surprisingly pleasant debut novel
Many thanks to Stevie and Gollancz for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.
A small group of commuters and tube workers witness a fiery apocalypse overtaking London. They make their escape through a service tunnel. Reaching a door they step through…and find themselves on a wild shore backed by cliffs and rolling grassland. The way back is blocked. Making their way inland they meet a man dressed in a wolf’s cloak and with wolves by his side. He speaks English and has heard of a place called London – other people have arrived here down the ages – all escaping from a London that is burning. None of them have returned. Except one – who travels between the two worlds at will. The group begin a quest to find this one survivor; the one who holds the key to their return and to the safety of London.
And as they travel this world, meeting mythical and legendary creatures,split between North and South by a mighty river and bordered by The White City and The Crystal Palace they realise they are in a world defined by all the London’s there have ever been.
Reminiscent of Michael Moorcock and Julian May this is a grand and sweeping science fantasy built on the ideas, the legends, the memories of every London there has ever been.
Down Station was a pleasant surprise overall. I went into the book with a little bit of dubiousness because I’m not generally a fan of dystopian novels but although it started out a little bit slower than it ended it certainly moved well.
The book follows 3 main characters:
Mary – an ex-prisoner who has obtained a job working on the Underground as a cleaner to become a better person. Some slight anger issues and distrust.
Dalip – a young Sikh man from Warrior tradition with an engineering background working on the Underground as a track layer and who had led a pretty sheltered life.
Stainslav – an Eastern European from a war-torn country who has done some pretty shady things in his past.
The story kicks off with Mary going to work and getting a little bit of background from her. She’s been in and out of prison, foster homes and the like, has a thieving background and has a bit of a temper and a foul mouth. Then the story passes on to the event where London goes up in flames and Mary and her fellow cleaning compatriots attempt to escape the Underground through an abandoned station. The same happens with Dalip and Stainslav who are working together repairing the tracks.
They go through to Down Street Station which is a disused tube station in Mayfair and exit a door with the flames swiftly following them. They emerge into Down – which as it emerges it not just the direction but also a place – a swiftly dystopian place with sea monsters and wyverns and bad guys galore.
The story then is Mary, Dalip, Stainslav’s and the other survivors’ journey of trying to get back home to London once the portal closed. It’s gritty, determined and slightly freakish in a good way.
It was as I said a pleasant surprise, normally I find dystopian’s hard to read but this was quite a smooth ride with little unexplained jumps between POV and settings – it was generally split over chapters so each chapter had one character’s POV. With good clear and concise prose and dialogue, shockingly normal characters (mostly) and a unique plot, it was a great debut novel.