London, but not as we know it, is the setting for this debut novel from Michael Mann. This is a dystopian world, with most of the city in ruins and people hiding from the terrible smog that appears from nowhere.
A bombed and battered Battersea Power Station is alive and producing power, through the efforts of hundreds of children shovelling coal from dawn to dusk. Not that they know what time of day it is, as they have been kidnapped from their homes and forced to work underground in terrible conditions, with punishments meted out for the slightest infringements of the impossible rules.
Luke, the hero of the story, is keeping his head down and working hard to obtain his promised ‘amber ticket’ to freedom. When one of the other children, new girl Jess, looks like she will spoil his chances, Luke steps in to try to help, but the pair end up locked in a dirty room in the secret East Wing, tasked with cleaning the sewage that has seeped in. It is here that Luke meets Alma, a ghost who has become trapped in one of the pipes and learns that he is not like other children, but is actually a half-ghost and can see and do much more than he ever dreamed of.
Whilst searching for a means of escape from the power station, Luke and his friends uncover a sinister plot hatched by the evil owner of the power station, Tabatha Margate, and Luke determines to uncover the truth and ensure his freedom.
There are some wonderful characters in this fast-paced adventure and the descriptions of this new dystopian London as Luke flies high above it on his special cloud, are brought vividly to life. I won’t spoil the ending, but I found myself trying to read faster and faster to see what happened to Luke and his friends and willing them on to succeed.
Whilst quite dark in places, it is nevertheless a lovely heart-warming tale as Luke and his friends discover more about themselves and what they are capable of to find out the truth and defeat the evil plot.
A fantastic debut from Michael Mann and I can’t wait to see what he does next.