Adventure novel shatters cliche plots
'Tunnels' presents entertaining story, charisma
In this fantasy/science fiction novel, the main character, Will Burrows, and his father have somewhat of an obsession with digging tunnels. Although the father and son are said to have no secrets with each other, the story is twisted when Will discovers that his father has been digging a secret tunnel and then goes missing.
You have heard this story before. It starts with a 14-year-old kid from a dysfunctional family who is bullied at school for his appearance. He befriends another outcast; they stand up for each other and get in fights. Sound familiar? This essentially sums up most high school dramas ever invented, give or take a love interest.
Tunnels, by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams, manages to break that mold. In fact, it completely shatters this cliche with its serpentine plot and mixture of harsh reality and widespread conspiracy.
What separates the ironically named Will Burrows from the average teen is that he and his dad, Roger, dig. A lot. They share an obsession for excavating and discovering under their small British town, Highfield. Secrecy is a key to their work, ever since an important professor claimed credit for a buried Roman villa, leaving Dr. Burrows only a small footnote. Between Will and his father, however, there are no secrets.
Because of this, Will is stunned when he finds evidence indicating that his father has been conducting a secret dig, near his house. Then, his father disappears.
Since the police are baffled at where to start, Will and his friend Chester set to work finding out where he has gone. They find few concrete clues, but a collapsed tunnel in Will's basement and cryptic notes in Dr. Burrow's office seem to indicate that something is afoot.
Chester helps Will clear the tunnel and they discover a strange elevator where city records show nothing manmade should exist. Here, Will's scientific curiosity gets the better of him and Chester follows him down.
Things below are stranger than anything Will could have possibly imagined. A whole society known as the Colony exists there, under the earth. Unfortunately, he and Chester are accused of breaking some sort of trespassing law, so he and Chester are imprisoned and interrogated by a group of pale, black-eyed men known as the Styx.
Here, the plot takes an unexpected turn again. The guards inform Will that he has visitors, and they claim that Will's real name is Seth and they are his real family. They take Will out of the prison, leaving Chester alone.
Although Will initially refuses to believe them, his new family's resemblance to him and their utter conviction eventually convince him. His newfound younger brother, Cal, looks up to him, a new experience for Will.
However, Will soon grows uneasy with life in the Colony. He learns that his real mother fled to the surface to escape the Styx, who control the citizens underground through a kind of cult. Chester continues to be imprisoned and is growing more desperate day by day. In the meantime, Cal shows a willingness to escape with Will.
"I found Tunnels to be a gritty adventure, living up to its name with its dark tone and twisting plot. Because of this, I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy or science fiction, or just weird conspiracies." --Daniel Moore, '14
The remainder of the book deals with Will's attempts to escape and rescue Chester. He soon learns that the Styx have influence everywhere, even on the surface. He is locked in a desperate fight and he can never return home.
Despite the absurdity of the premises, I found that Tunnels had a sort of grim charisma to it. Will, Chester and Cal are real, relatable characters, and their decisions and interactions are interesting. The plot held me in a kind of bizarre fascination, showing at the same time both the wonder of this strange world and the doubts the protagonists felt about it.
I found Tunnels to be a gritty adventure, living up to its name with its dark tone and twisting plot. Because of this, I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy or science fiction, or just weird conspiracies.
The book covers a little less than 500 pages and is first in a series of five books to date. The book is available on Amazon.com for about $9.
For more book reviews, read the Feb. 27 article, Cancer novel balances humor, gravity.