lauren scott and the seahorse, by chris jones, and trip to windsor and eton

lauren scott and the seahorse

(a teenager novel self-published by a friend)

a fantastic first chapter – a gripping opening, strongly establishing the futuristic london, and pulling my eyes along the lines of the page as the chase became intense; you knew roughly the violent way in which it would end, but that wasn’t a problem; you didn’t know why he was so desperate to reach someone with something before ‘they’ got him

as the children form a group against the authorities, and as the authorities are represented primarily by teachers, i was often put in mind of a certain schoolboy wizard and his friends, but this is very different: the magic is confined to one small but vital class of objects (and even then, as we’re in sci-fi, magic is just science we don’t yet have), and the authorities in jones’ london are (as far as we can tell in this first part of a trilogy) all bad; there’s no dumbledore

the story is great: there are several genuinely moving episodes of self-sacrifice (particularly the amazing opening and finale), the three children are differentiated skilfully and drawn sensitively, and the dialogue never grates or sounds contrived; yet above all, and essential for a tale like this, is the atmosphere: convincing – dark and claustrophobic, yes, yet revealing (teasingly, not too fast) details of the novel’s wider world, a world we know lauren (and we) are going to, one day, encounter; the elaborately secure walls of the city, and the adults’ whispered and fearful secrecy, are devices, physical and political, which jones cleverly uses to keep the reader in lauren’s state of ignorance

the writing is natural and easy, smooth and unobtrusive from the start; it is not featureless, but doesn’t draw attention to itself; some typos remain – quite a few misplaced apostrophes, and a ‘route’ for ‘root’ and a ‘to’ for ‘too’

looking forward to the sequel

trip to windsor and eton

before watching the crown i’d never properly appreciated the extent to which the royal circus is just that, a show, a tool of soft power, directed both externally (a sudden royal tour to shore up an ally) and internally (a photo shoot or wedding to distract and reassure the masses)

my recent experience of windsor slotted into this way of seeing ‘royalismus’: both extremes of ‘classiness’ (from changing of the guard to tat shops) all serve the same end

having eton just across the river (i didn’t realise how near) makes clearer, even in this era of cameron, johnson and now nix, how deeply embedded this school is in the british establishment, and, what’s more, that there is such a thing

How they are related

As before, when I wrote the two sections above I had no idea what would happen here; and now it’s obvious. In both there is a hidden, sinister, governmental power, and a school. What Eton lacks, pace Eton Rifles, is the group of difficult kids kicking off a narrative of a freedom fight against totalitarianism.

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