September 15, 2013

Erin Callahan & Troy H. Gardner: "Tunnelville"

Title:  Tunnelville [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Mad World (2st of 6 books)
Authors: Erin Callahan & Troy H. Gardner [Mad World site (edit - new site 2017) | Erin's site (added 2017) | Erin on Goodreads | Troy's site | Troy on Goodreads]
Genres: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Year: 2013
Age: 12+
Stars: 3.5/5
Pros: Rather unusual and multifaceted. Characters make for some interesting dynamics. A few surprises on the way.
Cons: Some too convenient or unconvincing occurrences. A few careless decisions. Real action crammed in the end.
Will appeal to: Those who liked Wakefield but craved for more action...and magic.

Blurb: Following their panicked escape from Wakefield, Astrid Chalke, Max Fisher and their friends find themselves adrift and on the run in western Massachusetts. After picking up a young thief with a complex philosophy, and dealing with the pains of prescription drug withdrawal, they make their way to Boston. The damaged teens settle in an underground tunnel community and encounter the fabulous Angie DeVille, who envelops them in her breathless and fast paced life. Dr. Lycen is tasked to hunt down the Wakefield escapees. But as Astrid and Max eke out a meager existence in their new home and do their best to stay off Dr. Lycen's radar, they learn that new and even more harrowing threats might be lurking just over the horizon. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I received this novel from the authors in exchange for an honest review. Here goes...
Upon closing my Tunnelville PDF after reading the whole book, I suddenly realized that a significant shift had occurred. While Wakefield still retained a lot of traits that could be identified as contemporary (the past lives, interactions and everyday problems of a bunch of kids living in a educational facility), with Tunnelville we step openly into urban-fantasy - or even magic - territory. Though Astrid, Max and the gang are now fighting for survival in a new town - while trying to avoid their pursuers - the real focus is the specialness of some of them and of a few people they meet. We do follow the escapees while struggling and conning and stealing and doing odd jobs, but mostly we are introduced to a world on the fringe of normal, not of society.
The story is again mainly split into alternate chapters by Astrid and Max, with the occasional interlude by Eugene (a detective hired by Astrid's aunt in order to find her) and a prologue and epilogue by Dr. Lycen. Eight of the Wakefield inmates have escaped together - leaving what I suspect was a favourite character of us all behind, because of a decision the kid in question had to make. Now we get to know a Wakefield runaway we only got a glimpse of before - Lawrence, a great addiction to the cast. Also, Colby, a new companion with a whole different background, joins the group on their escape, and we mainly see him through Astrid's eyes, because the two fell for each other - so we aren't sure if the kid in question can be trusted or not. I have to say that the marginality of this love story with regard to the plot was much appreciated, though you'll still be treated to some cute moments if you are into them.
The first chapters follow the eight escapees while they're heading to Boston, living hand to mouth and trying to stay off the radar. Though some relationships are still strong, some of them seem to deteriorate a bit under the stress. Besides the shifting dynamics, there is also some unexpected character development, with particular reference to Astrid, who is apparently coming a bit far from the girl we came to know and love in Wakefield - while Max is even more relatable and sweet. Still, Astrid has taken Ben - the only really sick kid in the gang - under her wing, administrating him medications and trying to keep him safe, which is a point in her favour. [...]

Some of the runaways get more screen time than the others, which is a pity. Anyway, we come to know them all better, through the confidences they share with one another (there's a really cute moment where one of them pour her?/his? heart out to Astrid ) or even Dr. Lycen's revelations (see: Max).
I have to point out that the kids make some really careless decisions here and there, like modeling for a painter (what about staying off the radar???), trusting complete strangers or hitting Boston's night scene as if they were living the normal life. There's also a kind of impromptu friendship that Max strikes with a boy on the metro that seems a little too quick and outgoing to be true. Nevertheless, the authors did a great job in surprising us with twists and revelations about the new friends the kids make. One of them in particular has her?/his? own motives for befriending/helping the gang, but I still don't get why it should take till the very last pages for this person to accomplish her?/his? design. Plot reasons, yes, but in real life?
In the meantime, the "specials" are practicing their abilities, and there's a particular, powerful scene where they do just that. Max is still having his dreams and/or astral projections, but as for the dreams, they could be true or misleading...and there's a threat in them - only five of the Wakefield escapees might make it to the final destination, whichever it is.
One of the things that I didn't really buy is that, wherever the gang turn their heads, they seem to meet someone with special abilities too, or someone who knows about them. But then again, there's a reason for this, as we are to see at the end of the book.
Overall, I did enjoy Tunnelville more than Wakefield, though in this case too the real action is crammed into the very last pages. I'm really curious about what's coming next, and who will make it eventually...because yes, part the prophecy about the five has already been fulfilled...

For my review of "Wakefield" (first installment in the series) click here.

For my review of "Perfection" (third installment in the series) click here.
For my interview with Erin and Troy click here.
For more Supernatural/Paranormal books click here.

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