Monday, 30 July 2012

"hits the ground running in breathless fashion"

Stuart Barr (twitter: @MaxRenn) reviews for Frightfest. A review from him scares me because he seriously knows his stuff. Here's what he has to say about Doom Rider:

"Following the conclusion of his Lazarus Stone trilogy of young adult horror novels, David Gatward has broadly stayed within the genre with his new offering DOOM RIDER but where the previous trilogy was gruesome grand guignol, this new book is a more of a streamlined thriller. In fact to begin with it appears to be more in the science fiction than horror genre. However Gatward’s preoccupation with apocalyptic imagery soon brings a healthy dose of supernatural horror into the plot.

The book opens at the Glastonbury Festival, however it soon becomes apparent that this isn’t quite the festival of felt jester hats, scrumpy, wellies and music we know it as. This is an alternate Britain ruled by a totalitarian religious elite and the festival is now a celebration of fringe religious cults. The hero Seth Crow is an unwilling participant in one such cult sideshow run by his parents. Crow lives a rootless existence as the star attraction in a travelling end-of-days cult roadshow as ‘Apocalypse Boy’. Seth has a gift for cold reading an audience and delivering uncannily accurate predictions of their ultimate fates. On the verge of his thirteenth birthday he plans to run away from this life which he despises, but his plans go quickly south. First he meets a mysterious young girl, Lily, who is instrumental in saving his life from an assassination attempt by a group of religious killers, The Chosen. Seth discovers that he has lived many lives, and all have ended before his thirteenth year. Ended at the hands of a society of assassins who believe he has a crucial role to play in the Apocalypse.

DOOM RIDER has a fast-paced chase narrative, and owes a little to THE HUNGER GAMES, not only in its dystopian setting but also in the theme of children being persecuted to maintain the status quo of an adult society. Plus bows are really in at the moment for some reason. However it also has strong comic book elements and when Crow discovers the reason that he is being hunted he becomes something similar to the antiheroes of the comic books GHOST RIDER or THE DARKNESS. If I have a major criticism of the book, it is that Seth Crow is not quite as deftly characterised as Gatward’s previous adolescent hero, Lazarus Stone. The Stone trilogy gave over much of its first book to building his character, whereas DOOM RIDER, as you can probably tell from the synopsis I’ve given (which is really only the books opening chapters), hits the ground running in breathless fashion.

Young readers will be pleased by the many exciting action scenes and generous helpings of mayhem (in terms of reading age and content this would carry a BBFC 12A cert). They will also be presented with some quite weighty concepts to chew on, in particular the nature of free will vs. predestination. There is a very strong subtext to the book about not taking religious dogma at face value and finding one’s own path. Very potent ideas for a teenage audience."

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