This Page

has been moved to new address

The City's Son by Tom Pollock

Sorry for inconvenience...

Redirection provided by Blogger to WordPress Migration Service
body { background:#aba; margin:0; padding:20px 10px; text-align:center; font:x-small/1.5em "Trebuchet MS",Verdana,Arial,Sans-serif; color:#333; font-size/* */:/**/small; font-size: /**/small; } /* Page Structure ----------------------------------------------- */ /* The images which help create rounded corners depend on the following widths and measurements. If you want to change these measurements, the images will also need to change. */ @media all { #content { width:740px; margin:0 auto; text-align:left; } #main { width:485px; float:left; background:#fff url("") no-repeat left bottom; margin:15px 0 0; padding:0 0 10px; color:#000; font-size:97%; line-height:1.5em; } #main2 { float:left; width:100%; background:url("") no-repeat left top; padding:10px 0 0; } #main3 { background:url("") repeat-y; padding:0; } #sidebar { width:240px; float:right; margin:15px 0 0; font-size:97%; line-height:1.5em; } } @media handheld { #content { width:90%; } #main { width:100%; float:none; background:#fff; } #main2 { float:none; background:none; } #main3 { background:none; padding:0; } #sidebar { width:100%; float:none; } } /* Links ----------------------------------------------- */ a:link { color:#258; } a:visited { color:#666; } a:hover { color:#c63; } a img { border-width:0; } /* Blog Header ----------------------------------------------- */ @media all { #header { background:#456 url("") no-repeat left top; margin:0 0 0; padding:8px 0 0; color:#fff; } #header div { background:url("") no-repeat left bottom; padding:0 15px 8px; } } @media handheld { #header { background:#456; } #header div { background:none; } } #blog-title { margin:0; padding:10px 30px 5px; font-size:200%; line-height:1.2em; } #blog-title a { text-decoration:none; color:#fff; } #description { margin:0; padding:5px 30px 10px; font-size:94%; line-height:1.5em; } /* Posts ----------------------------------------------- */ .date-header { margin:0 28px 0 43px; font-size:85%; line-height:2em; text-transform:uppercase; letter-spacing:.2em; color:#357; } .post { margin:.3em 0 25px; padding:0 13px; border:1px dotted #bbb; border-width:1px 0; } .post-title { margin:0; font-size:135%; line-height:1.5em; background:url("") no-repeat 10px .5em; display:block; border:1px dotted #bbb; border-width:0 1px 1px; padding:2px 14px 2px 29px; color:#333; } a.title-link, .post-title strong { text-decoration:none; display:block; } a.title-link:hover { background-color:#ded; color:#000; } .post-body { border:1px dotted #bbb; border-width:0 1px 1px; border-bottom-color:#fff; padding:10px 14px 1px 29px; } html>body .post-body { border-bottom-width:0; } .post p { margin:0 0 .75em; } { background:#ded; margin:0; padding:2px 14px 2px 29px; border:1px dotted #bbb; border-width:1px; border-bottom:1px solid #eee; font-size:100%; line-height:1.5em; color:#666; text-align:right; } html>body { border-bottom-color:transparent; } em { display:block; float:left; text-align:left; font-style:normal; } a.comment-link { /* IE5.0/Win doesn't apply padding to inline elements, so we hide these two declarations from it */ background/* */:/**/url("") no-repeat 0 45%; padding-left:14px; } html>body a.comment-link { /* Respecified, for IE5/Mac's benefit */ background:url("") no-repeat 0 45%; padding-left:14px; } .post img { margin:0 0 5px 0; padding:4px; border:1px solid #ccc; } blockquote { margin:.75em 0; border:1px dotted #ccc; border-width:1px 0; padding:5px 15px; color:#666; } .post blockquote p { margin:.5em 0; } /* Comments ----------------------------------------------- */ #comments { margin:-25px 13px 0; border:1px dotted #ccc; border-width:0 1px 1px; padding:20px 0 15px 0; } #comments h4 { margin:0 0 10px; padding:0 14px 2px 29px; border-bottom:1px dotted #ccc; font-size:120%; line-height:1.4em; color:#333; } #comments-block { margin:0 15px 0 9px; } .comment-data { background:url("") no-repeat 2px .3em; margin:.5em 0; padding:0 0 0 20px; color:#666; } .comment-poster { font-weight:bold; } .comment-body { margin:0 0 1.25em; padding:0 0 0 20px; } .comment-body p { margin:0 0 .5em; } .comment-timestamp { margin:0 0 .5em; padding:0 0 .75em 20px; color:#666; } .comment-timestamp a:link { color:#666; } .deleted-comment { font-style:italic; color:gray; } .paging-control-container { float: right; margin: 0px 6px 0px 0px; font-size: 80%; } .unneeded-paging-control { visibility: hidden; } /* Profile ----------------------------------------------- */ @media all { #profile-container { background:#cdc url("") no-repeat left bottom; margin:0 0 15px; padding:0 0 10px; color:#345; } #profile-container h2 { background:url("") no-repeat left top; padding:10px 15px .2em; margin:0; border-width:0; font-size:115%; line-height:1.5em; color:#234; } } @media handheld { #profile-container { background:#cdc; } #profile-container h2 { background:none; } } .profile-datablock { margin:0 15px .5em; border-top:1px dotted #aba; padding-top:8px; } .profile-img {display:inline;} .profile-img img { float:left; margin:0 10px 5px 0; border:4px solid #fff; } .profile-data strong { display:block; } #profile-container p { margin:0 15px .5em; } #profile-container .profile-textblock { clear:left; } #profile-container a { color:#258; } .profile-link a { background:url("") no-repeat 0 .1em; padding-left:15px; font-weight:bold; } ul.profile-datablock { list-style-type:none; } /* Sidebar Boxes ----------------------------------------------- */ @media all { .box { background:#fff url("") no-repeat left top; margin:0 0 15px; padding:10px 0 0; color:#666; } .box2 { background:url("") no-repeat left bottom; padding:0 13px 8px; } } @media handheld { .box { background:#fff; } .box2 { background:none; } } .sidebar-title { margin:0; padding:0 0 .2em; border-bottom:1px dotted #9b9; font-size:115%; line-height:1.5em; color:#333; } .box ul { margin:.5em 0 1.25em; padding:0 0px; list-style:none; } .box ul li { background:url("") no-repeat 2px .25em; margin:0; padding:0 0 3px 16px; margin-bottom:3px; border-bottom:1px dotted #eee; line-height:1.4em; } .box p { margin:0 0 .6em; } /* Footer ----------------------------------------------- */ #footer { clear:both; margin:0; padding:15px 0 0; } @media all { #footer div { background:#456 url("") no-repeat left top; padding:8px 0 0; color:#fff; } #footer div div { background:url("") no-repeat left bottom; padding:0 15px 8px; } } @media handheld { #footer div { background:#456; } #footer div div { background:none; } } #footer hr {display:none;} #footer p {margin:0;} #footer a {color:#fff;} /* Feeds ----------------------------------------------- */ #blogfeeds { } #postfeeds { padding:0 15px 0; }

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The City's Son by Tom Pollock

Tom Pollock writes beautiful prose. It's the first thing I noticed about his debut novel, The City's Son. So good in fact, that it buoys a straight forward young adult urban fantasy to new heights. It's a rare novel of that ilk that's able to hook me enough to give it a full run. I was pleased that not only did it engage me enough to finish the novel, but I found myself coming back to it time and again despite finding the plot just short of boring.

I admit that last sentence is about the biggest back handed compliment I've ever given someone. Guilty as charged, however, it's not that simple. Allow me to explain.

Beth is a trouble maker, daughter of a Hackney widower with a penchant for artistic tagging, and she's pulling her best friend Pen Khan down with her. After a rough encounter with corrupt school administrators, Beth runs away from her endlessly grieving father. In London's back alleys, she sees something she should never have seen. Caught up in the divine forces on which the city is built, she finds herself in a war between London's deep history and her ruthlessly modern future.
The architecture grew darker, stranger: a heavily graffiti'd old cinema building, its neon sign long-dead and its doors shuttered; an electricity sub-station half-hidden behind a cloud of razor-wire, and everywhere, the cranes massed on the skyline like cruel sentinels.
City's Son is a love story, both in the traditional sense and otherwise. Beth is struggling through life. She's a teenager who lacks direction. Her dad is checked out. She's falling through the cracks. Her brilliance is unappreciated by anyone other than her best friend. Pollock guides the reader through her awakening to the world outside her own skull--her love for the people around her and their love for her. Not love as excretion as so often is the case in juvenile fiction (notice, I didn't say young adult as adult fiction can often be more juvenile this regard than the younger variety), rather love as acceptance, both of herself and others.

It's also a story of Tom Pollock's love affair with city of London. He isn't a character himself, but it's impossible to read City's Son and not feel the war he describes playing out on the streets he lives on. Times are changing everywhere, but in a place like London so rife with history it's doubly difficult to witness its changing identity. Cobblestone streets become paved, and skyscrapers replace tumbledown neighborhoods along the Thames. Where once St. Paul's Cathedral was the tallest structure in all of London the last few decades have drastically altered the London skyline. This modernization, for want of a better term, plays out in Pollock's novel, represented by his human-like gods: Filius Viae, Prince of the Streets, and Reach, god of cranes and progress.

When I visited London the first time in the early-90's this was a different scene.
He often extends the metaphor even further, referencing Pen's traditional Pakaistani family and the faceless legion squashed beneath the tread of progress:
We weave through the crowds on Church Street. I'm ostentatiously invisible: people take pains not to look at me, I suppose because I look so much like the figures huddled in sleeping-bags in doorways that they are also careful to ignore.
Pollock's novel is so successful in this thematic exploration, vis-à-vis the symbolism and Beth's emotional journey, that I'm afraid he often loses sight of his story. Not that City's Son is unclear or filled with holes, but it lacks veracity. Beth leaps too easily into the unknown, and her anthropomorphic counterpart Filius is too quick to accept her. Her father snaps out of his self-induced reverie without any repercussions, and Pen's character, as important as it is to the novel, remains woefully underdeveloped. It all works, as it must for Pollock to accomplish his goal, but it works for exactly that reason, leaving his fingerprints all over his characters, as opposed to their fingerprints on his story.

So this puts me where exactly? It's a question I find hard to answer. As an adult reader, with a mature sense for what Pollock is communicating in the novel, I can't describe City's Son in any other way than a phenomenal success. As a discussion on progress, and belief, and the changing natures of cultural history in the modern world, there's a great deal of similarity between Pollock and Neil Gaiman in American Gods. Likewise, his use of language is not dissimilar from the estimable China Miéville who seems equally adept at working his prose to communicate substance between the lines.

Miéville is an interesting comparison point as his recent effort at writing young adult fiction, namely Railsea, fails to connect in the ways Pollock has in City's Son. Where Miéville often loses track of himself in his creations (and his self indulgent construction), Pollock seems to remember who he's writing to and delivers the appropriate message with clarity.
The angel's beautiful carved face watched. "I misjudged you, Miss Bradley," he said softly. "Guilt is not your problem." 
"No?" Beth sniffed back tears. "Then what is?" 
"Rampaging egomania."
Passages like above emphasize his desire to identify with the teenage psyche all while managing to likewise make a larger point that resonates like Big Ben chiming in the rain.

When I finished City's Son, I had every intention of writing, at best, a lukewarm review. There I was criticizing a debut novel for uneven storytelling, an occurrence so common as to warrant comparison to flatulence in a Mel Brooks film. As I dug deeper into the novel, rereading passages and making connections, my eyes opened to appreciate what Pollock accomplished. He's constructed a tremendous piece of allegory, a dialogue on progress, or at least the negative connotations of the word. Combined with his honest and revelatory approach to the teenage condition, it should be rewarding for readers of all ages.

Still, I wonder whether younger readers will find enough in The City's Son to get passionate about when I felt the plot lacked conviction. That remains to be seen. In the meantime I'll recognize Tom Pollock as a new writer more than capable of creating seminal works of art. If his first effort falls short of that, well, I'm not going to hold it against him.

Labels: , , , , ,


At September 5, 2012 at 9:21 AM , Blogger Kristin said...

I've heard really good things (and meh things) about this, but one thing is for sure, it definitely inspires something! Looking forward to reading it:)


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home