Johnny Mackintosh and the Spirit of London by Keith Mansfield
|Johnny Mackintosh and the Spirit of London by Keith Mansfield|
|Reviewer: Jason Mark Curley|
|Summary: Don't let the title put you off. An excellent space adventure.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 352||Date: July 2008|
Johnny Mackintosh is a thirteen year old boy, living in a children's home in Essex, his only friend is his dog, Bentley. Constantly tracked and put down by the home's chief, Mr Wilkins, he is finding it increasingly hard to get solitary access to the home's computer room. This proves problematic, because soon after the teenage computer genius programmes the computers to search for extraterrestrial intelligence, he finds a signal coming from above the Earth.
He is sent to see his mother, who has been languishing in a psychiatric hospital for years. When he tells her everything that has been going on, she drops a locket. When he gets the chance to open it, he finds the locket contains a picture of him and two other children, but the picture is of him as he is now. He recognises the boy in the picture to be his brother Nicky, who had died eleven years earlier. The other picture is of a girl he does not recognise.
With the help of the computer system he's programmed and remote access through a hand-held game device, he sets off to find the girl in the picture. When he finally does, he takes a trip to a destination that's simply out of this world, and begins a journey that will lead him to discover who he truly is.
A few years ago, while I was a Ruskin College, Oxford, my class was lucky enough to have a seminar with the great sci-fi author, Brian Aldiss. During the hour or so we spent with him, he told us the reason he decided to write science fiction. He'd set his first novel in Croydon and got to thinking that a book about Croydon might sell very well in Croydon, but probably wouldn't sell particularly well in the USA or Japan. It was at that point when the thought set in that a book about outer space might sell well everywhere.
The reason I mention this is because of the title of this book. The Spirit of London isn't really about the Spirit of London at all. It's just a clever name for a spaceship that arrives midway through the novel. I think this title could have a negative impact on the book, because I'd never have picked it up on that basis. The thing is, when I started to read the book, I found that it is one of quality.
The story is great, though a little clichéd at times (but this is space opera so that's hard to avoid). The characterisation in this book is fantastic and Mansfield paints some exceptionally believable, lovable and fun characters. The writing is engaging and accomplished. Mansfield succeeds in cutting out all the parts that children tend to skip over. It's reminiscent of Rowling, yet still maintains an individual style.
My only problem with the book is with the first major transition into the new world. It seems a little rushed and confusing in places, and all too easy going for the protagonist. Mansfield lets the tension drop a little too quickly for my tastes. These really are minor niggles however, Johnny Mackintosh is a great read.
My thanks to the publishers for sending me this review copy.
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