Dream London

Dream London by Tony Ballantyne

Captain Jim Wedderburn has looks, style and courage by the bucketful. He’s adored by women, respected by men and feared by his enemies. He’s the man to find out who has twisted London into this strange new world, and he knows it.

But in Dream London the city changes a little every night and the people change a little every day. The towers are growing taller, the parks have hidden themselves away and the streets form themselves into strange new patterns. There are people sailing in from new lands down the river, new criminals emerging in the East End and a path spiralling down to another world.

Everyone is changing, no one is who they seem to be.


Earlier this year I received the Solaris catalogue of book they were publishing this year and among quite a few cool book I noticed Dream London. Urban Fantasy has been a hot topic for a lot of recently published books and offers an interesting premise for a lot of authors to venture is. What I could make up from the synopsis of Dream London was exactly this. The setting that Tony Ballantyne introduces in Dream London is weird and twisted but wholly original. 

Dream London follows the story of Captain Jim Wedderburn and it being told from his point of view. The introduction to Jim was quite unique and immediately set the mood straight for the remainder of the story, weird, it a more than positive way. Waking up in a room with lizards and all that sounds of munching and crunching to then find out that you could have possibly been poisoned. From this point onwards Jim faces a lot of problems for himself. Jim is a well established man, a lot of people know him and proves for Jim to be for the better or worse. Jim served in the military prior to making his re-entry in London and a ladiesman. The great thing about Jim's character is that he is well established in the storyline itself as a character, he is strong and speaks his own mind, which resonates even stronger as the story is being told from his first person narration. On more than one occasion the witty and funny dialogues really cracked me up, it's on many parts fun to read but introduces on the side a great sense of the weirdness and kind of creepiness in a off-putting sense (in a good way), of what Dream London is all about. 

The story of Dream London revolves around one thing: Captain Jim Wedderburn is charged with one single task, finding out what is happening in the London of Dream London and perhaps also the question as to how and why. In this task Jim is in for quite a lot and possibly a few folds higher than he had anticipated. Now before I for on it might be wise to tell a bit more about what the London in Dream London really is. Most of the urban fantasy inspired cities are just that cities with a lot of supernatural stuff going on, think urban magicians, vampire, werewolves and the like. Well Tony Ballantyne adds another dimension into the mix, quite literally, because this London is constantly shifting and twisting itself, tower can gain a few new levels or lose a few, similarly train tracks can be rearranged or in the worst case: complete building disappear from the forefront of London. The bottom line here is; when you go to bed you never, never know what will be in store for you the next day. This promise really got me fired up in the earlier pages all the way through to end. Ok so back to Jim's task, I hope this will make at least a bit more sense. 

Along his venture through the weirdness of London, Jim encounters a lot of different people and other "things". Just the different character alone all stood out, for starters there is the orange frogman, when I first read about him is was like O..K.. what the, but he fits spot on in the story his character is funny to read about, also when you see him getting more involved in the storyline later on. Another character that stood out is Honey Peppers, this small girl is definitely not as sweet as honey, I can tell you that. Jim gets caught up with Honey Peppers because other parties are interested in Jim, namely Daddio. Honey Peppers is something of an eccentricity, she is young and doesn't shy away from using some harsh words, she liked being in control and this makes her the best front for Daddio, and if she doesn't get what she wants... she will seek different, more cruel ways to reach goal. The part of Dream London zoo was one part that really put a grin on my face, the dialogue between Jim and Honey Peppers and the subsequent follow up of the Mandrils and Jim denying it on all parts was just spot on written. Also when you get further into the books, the occasional references towards what happened seem to speak against what Jim claimed happened.. very funny. These two characters had so much going on for themselves, but there are plenty of other weird and interesting characters in the book, and each have their own peculiarities just to name one: two eyes, blinking that is, on their tongues... again O...K... For me all that Tony Ballantyne introduces in his Dream London works full color. 

Well talking about colors.. The first chapter of the book is named chapter one. But soon chapters are starting to get color names, and first I didn't know what this would mean and started to look for link, were the colors of the chapters somehow emphasized in the chapters themselves? Or was there more going on? Soon you do find out what these color mean and adds a lot of flavor to the story itself, these parts in the Angel Tower, from the mathematics part and the contract part were just cool to read about and for me took the promise of the book those extra few steps further, especially when the quarter drops and you see the whole relations between everything, who and how Dream London is being changed. The last part of the book is just a mad dash to finish it all, when Jim sets his mind onto something he preservers till the end. This mad dash doesn't at all mean that it hurriedly finished, on the contrary, the ending is a display in full swing and color accompanied by brass bands! yes, brass bands. 

It's weird, it's cool, it's a whole lot of fun to read about. Dream London has managed to set itself apart from the majority of the urban fantasy titles. The characters and the world itself are vibrant, alive and colorful. Jim Wedderburn takes some getting used to but when you except him, his character never stops to amaze you and he grows from a bit of an selfish ass into a more compassionate kind of man. And then there is world, just WOW!! (it does deserve the capitals and exclamation marks!) Tony Ballantyne shows a very unique and more than interesting take of just how a shifting city should look like. I heard that this book is the first in a series so I have high hopes of what we will be reading about next. Just an extra note: when I am addressing weird parts I mean this all in the best positive way. I can only highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to read something refreshing and new, and even if you are not looking for this, you still have to have read this book. And last, take a look at the cover art, this directly plays part into the story of Dream London itself.

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