The Marbury Lens
by Andrew Smith
On the whole, I didn't find this a very satisfying read. Of course I'm not into dystopian fiction, so I wasn't primed to like this in the first place, so feel free to take what I say with a grain of salt. But for the most part I left this with far more questions than answers, which maybe was the point to set up sequels. Though as I said in another book review, you have to hook me in the first book to make me read more and this did not succeed.
The plot involves 16-year-old Jack, who one night after a drunken party is abducted by a man named Freddie for a few days until he escapes. With the help of his friend Conner, they kill Freddie but don't bother telling the police about any of it. Instead they go off alone to England. After another night drinking (because he didn't learn the first time) Jack receives some mysterious glasses.
These glasses transport him to the mysterious world of Marbury. Though unlike Narnia, it's not a nice place with talking animals and centaurs and stuff. Instead it's a dried-up husk populated by violent cannibals who at one time were maybe human. Jack and two boys named Ben and Griffin seem to be the only normal humans around. They struggle to survive and maybe find more people.
With the glasses and the help of a ghost, Jack keeps going back and forth from the "real" world to Marbury. But what is real?
It's too bad the story doesn't provide an answer to that or my other questions. (My first question, why is it called Marbury? That sounds like the name for a brand of marmalade.) Like I said, maybe Smith is hoping to answer the questions in a future sequel. But also as I said, I wouldn't have much interest in reading it. Unlike Narnia or Middle Earth or other fantasy worlds, I don't see Marbury as one worth revisiting. Maybe if you like "The Road" or "Mad Max" or "The Postman" you'd find it worthwhile.
Also, as a backhanded compliment, Smith does a good job of making Jack a realistic teenage boy. Unfortunately that means he's usually sullen and whiny. I have no idea what the beautiful Nickie sees in him. Well, hormones and all that maybe.
On a final note, if you're a parent, this isn't something you want younger children reading. There's a lot of swearing, violence, and gore. It's pretty R-rated for a YA novel. I don't think I'd want my niece reading it until she's at least 17, if at all. Though I have a long time to worry about that.
That is all.