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Mind the Gap
Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon
Bantam Spectra, 400 pages

Christopher Golden
Christopher Golden was born and raised in Massachusetts, where he still lives with his family. His original novels have been published in fourteen languages in countries around the world. He has written books for teens and young adults, including the thriller series Body of Evidence, honored by the New York Public Library and chosen as one of YALSA's Best Books for Young Readers. With Thomas E. Sniegoski, he is the co-author of the dark fantasy series The Menagerie as well as the young readers fantasy series OutCast and the comic book miniseries Talent, both of which were recently acquired by Universal Pictures. Working with actress/writer/director Amber Benson, he co-created and co-wrote Ghosts of Albion, an original animated supernatural drama for BBC online, from which they created the book series of the same name.

Christopher Golden Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Tim Lebbon
Tim Lebbon lives in South Wales with his wife and two children. His books include Face, The Nature of Balance, Changing of Faces, Exorcising Angels (with Simon Clark), Dead Man's Hand, Pieces of Hate, Fears Unnamed, White and Other Tales of Ruin, Desolation, and Berserk. Future publications include Hellboy: Unnatural Selection from Simon & Schuster, plus books from Cemetery Dance, Night Shade Books, and Necessary Evil Press, among others. He has won two British Fantasy Awards, a Bram Stoker Award, and a Tombstone Award and has been a finalist for International Horror Guild and World Fantasy Awards. Several of his novels and novellas are currently under option in the United States and Great Britain.

Tim Lebbon Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Dawn
SF Site Review: Dusk
SF Site Review: Berserk
SF Site Review: Fears Unnamed
SF Site Review: As The Sun Goes Down
SF Site Review: Naming of Parts
SF Site Review: Faith In The Flesh

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Michael M Jones

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Mind the Gap For as long as she can remember, 17-year-old Jazz and her mother have been taken care of by the enigmatic dark-suited men known as the Uncles, equally relying on and fearing them. For that same length of time, Jazz's mother has drilled into her a sense of paranoia and distrust, to be wary of everyone, no matter what their outward appearance. There's the feeling that they're all waiting for something to happen, and one day, it does. Jazz comes home to find her mother murdered by the Uncles, and a last message written in her own blood: Jazz hide forever.

And so Jazz runs, fast and far, ultimately ending up deep under London, in the vast labyrinth of tunnels and forgotten subway stations and abandoned bomb shelters, where the city's lost and unwanted congregate. There, she meets Harry, a smooth-tongued thief and modern-day Fagin who runs a small gang of teenagers he calls the United Kingdom. They take Jazz in, making her part of their odd little family, and she learns how to steal with the best of them, though never forgetting to be wary, never forgetting to keep an eye out for the Uncles and their agents. Even the Underground isn't entirely safe, for it's down here that the ghosts of London's past still dwell, existing in a tortured state of in-between, appearing only to those few with the ability to perceive them... like Jazz.

The longer Jazz spends with Harry and the others, the more she realizes that she's at the center of a great mystery, a mystery that's claimed numerous lives already, and bound to claim more before it's over. Who are the Uncles, and why did they kill Jazz's mother, and why are they after her? How does Harry fit into this? And what part will Terence, a dashing rival thief, play? The search for answers will take Jazz from the homes of the most important men in London, down into the forgotten depths of the Underground, and force her to stop running and make a stand once and for all. But one thing remains constant: trust is earned, not given, and there are far too many people with far too many secrets for her to be comfortable. Unfortunately, these secrets are worth dying for.

Mind The Gap is the beginning of a new series from Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon, each one individually known for his talents in dark fantasy, and it's obvious that they work quite well as a team. Mind The Gap starts off with a bang, throwing you right into the story, and once it takes off running, it doesn't let up for quite some time. A secret world existing deep below London (or any other city) is certainly nothing new -- one only has to look as Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere to see one example of this -- but Golden and Lebbon choose to keep the magical elements of this book subtle and just on the edge of perception, for the most part. Grounded in the realm of believability, the story flows from surface to subway station to bomb shelter and back again, creating an eerie, haunted world that aptly invokes the series title of The Hidden Cities. It's moody, highly atmospheric, and pulls no punches in involving the senses as it creates the hidden world of a forgotten, decaying, buried London, one which works well with the sheer age of the city it's set in. It's easy to remember just how old London is, in this story.

The plot is engaging, with multiple mysteries all twisting around one another until they reach the same destination, and Jazz carries the thread quite adeptly, her refusal to settle down and accept things unquestioningly clearly pushing things towards a state of resolution despite the plans of those around her. She's a feisty, sympathetic character, worth rooting for. The other characters, especially Harry and Terence, two thieves, similar and yet very different in their ways, and Hattie, the closest thing Jazz has to a best friend, all play their parts quite well, although some of the other members of the United Kingdom really do fade into the woodwork, the plot not quite big enough for all of them to truly shine.

Mind The Gap is a great start to the series, a dark urban fantasy that's a lot more urban (or sub-urban) than it is fantasy. Where most urban fantasies these days delight in crowding the page with magic and monsters of all sorts, sometimes to the point of making the unusual into the mundane, this book keeps the magic at arm's length, infusing it with a sense of danger and mystery once again. This is especially evident in the bizarre phenomenon known as the Hour of Screams, which reverberates through the Underground at random intervals, for an unknown purpose, and to say more would be to ruin the mystery it represents.

According to the preview in the back of this book, the next in the series will be set in New Orleans. If Golden and Lebbon plan to write this series as a number of stand-alones, each in a different city, each playing off of that city's unique spirit and history, then they definitely have a winning idea on their hands. One can only wonder, should they continue, what Paris, or New York, or Rome, or Jerusalem, have to say through their interpretations. I'll have to keep my eyes open. This is a series worth watching.

Copyright © 2008 Michael M Jones

Michael M Jones enjoys an addiction to books, for which he's glad there is no cure. He lives with his very patient wife (who doesn't complain about books taking over the house... much), eight cats, and a large plaster penguin that once tasted blood and enjoyed it. A prophecy states that when Michael finishes reading everything on his list, he'll finally die. He aims to be immortal.


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