I came to the book cold; I'm thirty-one years of age and outside what I had always imagined would be the key demographic for a series of books that sets it's stall out as Harry Potter meets Iron Man but strip away genre and the one thing that unites good books is the writing and A Shadow Passed Over The Son has it in spades.
At one hundred and eleven pages it's a tantalisingly short read but one that doesn't waste a word in establishing not just a world that's familiar yet futuristic while at the same time already aged but in creating characters that are identifiably human both brilliant and flawed in their humanity and always a delight. The walls groaning, flexing before imploding...a chorus of cheers, echoing somewhere up there, atop the mountain of rubble demonstrates a style of writing that's lyrical and poetic yet depicts the grotesque; the destructive in such a beautiful way that you understand why people slow down to examine car crashes on the freeway. Sky City South is already old; it's a wonderful use of the science fiction motif of the new already old that brings visual recollections of the likes of Bladerunner that add a grounding to the narrative that brings it out of the usual Young Adult wheelhouse and into a more dangerous and unpredictable world.
Schneider's characterisation of Parker is wonderful; you get a real sense that the author has poured a lot of his own knowledge into the young protagonist as he's a complex and contradictory lead that's deserving of a narrative that, from the outset, pulls no punches. The estranged, protracted relationship between Parker and his military father is tortured and so heartbreakingly sweet. It's difficult to go into details without writing into a narrative corner but it's the most powerful relationship of the book and is another signifier of a writer and a narrative for that matter that's willing to push against genre in order to create a psychologically realistic emotional landscape. The book is littered with excellent supporting characters that will, I'm sure, over the course of the series develop further into the kind of figures that stick around in your heart long after the story has finished with this reviewer's personal favourite and early front runner being Colby who is not only the object of all Go-Boy fans envy or disdain (depending on the character) but is also one precocious little Hollywood child star and more than a little wrong upstairs (if you know what I mean) which has been overlooked due to the sycophantic nature of celebrity and the eternal quest modern society seems to have for being in the company of those who are famed. I love how he goes into monologues; how he breaks with social conventions in conversation and is not only the breadwinner of his family but an absolute tyrant. It's a great pastiche of the "fame machine" and a welcome inclusion in a wonderfully written, well paced and flawlessly directed narrative
The first book in any series is something of a thankless task. It has so much to do; it has a narrative to establish and plot; characters to introduce and flesh out so that when future instalments come along it's easier to care about them without the author telling to why you should. Schneider deals with this first hurdle; this arguably joint highest hurdle (alongside the conclusion of the series) with great style, confidence and intelligence that's not only made A Shadow Passed Over The Son a joy to read but a real surprise and has certainly made me long to read further beyond book one's ending.
Ryan Schneider's A Shadow Passed Over The Son is out now!