Gordon, Roderick and Brian Williams. 2008. Tunnels. New York: Chicken House (Scholastic).
Tunnels, first published in the UK in 2007 is an international best-seller. Its 2009 sequel, Deeper, released in February, is already a New York Times Bestseller. The website http://www.tunnelsthebook.com/ is extensive and interactive.
Tunnels is a dystopian sci-fi thriller that takes place in an alternate world beneath the streets of London. Will Burrows, a fourteen-year-old loner, and his dad, Dr. Burrows, the curator of a run-down, second-rate museum share a passion for amateur archaeological digs. They spend their free time digging tunnels, uncovering Georgian artifacts, and even an old rail tunnel. Will’s sister and mother lead peculiar and mutually enabling lifestyles – Mrs. Burrows - listless and helpless, Rebecca – calm, cool and efficient. Will’s father becomes secretive when he discovers a strange group of men stalking the nearby neighborhoods and spends much time in his subterranean office. When Dr. Burrows mysteriously disappears, Will teams up with Chester, another teenage outsider, to discover what happened.
Will and Chester find themselves in grave danger when they stumble upon an eerie, dark, repressive and often violent underworld.
Tunnels is an omnipresent narrative, though most of the action is told from Will’s perspective. Its chapters are divided into three parts, Breaking Ground, The Colony, and The Eternal City. Tunnels gets off to a great start in Breaking Ground, fast-paced and intriguing. The Colony, a dark and depressing interlude, bogs down a bit, but the story picks up with plenty of danger and adventure in The Eternal City.
This is a long book, and although its dust jacket claims it to be “Potteresque,” Gordon and Williams do not have J.K. Rowling’s gift for writing a book in a series that can stand perfectly well on its own. Sci-fi and adventure fans should love Tunnels, but after 472 pages, I found myself wanting a bit more closure, however, the British flair of the book is a refreshing change. William’s black and white sketches add an appropriate eeriness to the tale.