Book Review: Suncaller / Author: John Shaw Liddle / Publisher: Deadstar Publishing / Release Date: July 11th
One of the nice things about small press books is that the good ones tend to be unaffected by current trends in publishing; this can be a breath of fresh air, depending on the quality of the story.Let’s take for example, Suncaller. This debut novel could almost be an off-the-shelf young adult fantasy novel, and though it has a lot in common with that sort of thing, it does something I rarely see in YA books. It features young adults actually behaving like young adults; dumb, irresponsible teenagers doing the sort of things that Channel 4 likes to make incredibly worthy dramas about. This splash of originality on its own makes it worth a look, but it also happens to be a good read.
Suncaller is the tale of Mortimer Hope, aka Hopeless; an awkward, gangly teenager who isn’t good at anything. He’s haunted by strange nightmares, and things take a turn for the worse when his waking world begins to become just as horrid. The book flips between Hope’s fantastic dream-world and his less than brilliant real world. What this means is on the one side we have a nicely gritty urban fantasy story, laced heavily with a coming of age story, and on the other we have a classic fantasy tale that feels like it’s been lifted from the pages of an old-fashioned pulp fiction magazine. Though jarring, both tales are extremely refreshing and very engaging.
That isn’t to say the book doesn’t have its faults; it’s very flawed in places. Liddle has a real talent, but it’s a little raw in places; the pacing is slightly off, it jumps about a bit too much and it could do with being about 50 pages longer. However, it’s littered with tiny gems and great ideas; it takes a lot to make me laugh out loud when reading a book, and Suncaller did it at least twice. (It has some real zingers, as they say.) For a first novel, it’s a promising start, and I look forward to seeing what the author does next.