The White City. Book Review

The White City by Simon Morden
Gollancz, p/b,  336pp, £14.99
Reviewed by Martin Willoughby

This is a stonkingly good novel.

Picking up where Down Station left off, Morden continues with the story of Dalip and Mary as they try to keep their companions and themselves safe in Down, while trying to find a way home. Crows is still trying to take the maps, the wolfman and his retinue are on their tails and they’re now trying to find the White City. They find it. And begin to regret it immediately.

One of the best things about this novel is you don’t need to have read the previous one to fill in the gaps. What you need to know is right in front of you and the back story is filled in. Not only that, but it’s so well written that you don’t feel the need to skip a few lines to get on with the story. So what’s going on?

Dalip, Mary and a few others have appeared in Down via a strange door in an underground station. Their London was being destroyed in a firestorm and this was their only escape. The door disappeared almost immediately after they arrived in Down and they were trapped in a place where magic seems to rule and strangeness is an everyday occurrence.

A consequence of this magic is that Mary can transform into a bird while Dalip finds that his wimpy body is being transformed into one that Thor would be proud of. But the magic doesn’t affect everyone the same way. It takes someone’s character and transforms them, accentuates the good or bad characteristics that make them who they are. Mary’s now free instead of caged in a low wage job and dependent on alcohol and fags to make the day pass quicker, while Dalip can live up to his grandfather’s image. Others have similar good or bad responses.

They want to find a way home and the White City seems to be the place to go, the only city in the whole world. But what lies there? Trouble. It’s a place where magic doesn’t work and is ruled by strange people who ask a lot of questions but give no answers themselves.

Early on, Crows plays to his true self and abandons the group in a boat that grew out of the ground while Mary follows in order to retrieve the maps he’s stolen. Dalip and the others have to cope with the wolfman and his gang then, somehow, follow Mary.

That’s when the pirates appear: not quite Blackbeard but not quite Captain Pugwash.

When they all arrive in the White City, things really kick off and the truth behind Down is revealed. And it ain’t pretty.

As I may have mentioned, this is an excellent novel, though I have to say that Morden has yet to write a bad one.