Down Station - Simon Morden

A while back I started a new reading list, for books I wanted to read that were coming out in 2016, and Down Station was one of the earlier entries on it - just from the blurb, it sounded like something interesting that hadn't been done a thousand times before. I have to confess, however, that the author wasn't someone I had come across before and when I discovered my local library was buying a copy (which I could then request for the princely sum of 45p), I was extremely pleased. I've been burned too often with buying books which have turned out to be a disappointment so I'm trying my best to avoid it!

 

Anyway, Down Station is set in modern day London and opens with one of our main characters turning up at work - Mary has been found a job working on the Underground as a cleaner, so she starts work when the last train has run, not realising that tonight is going to be her last. She and some others who work with her are threatened by a massive fire (with the implication that some terrible unspecified disaster has befallen the city) and eventually find themselves in an abandoned Underground station from which a door leads to another world. 

 

The place they've arrived in is hardly Narnia, but it is full of magic - Down is a place where people have come when they've been in need of one kind or another, through portals that open but are clearly one-way. Our ragtag bunch of refugees end up heading inland from the coast where they'd arrived, only for most of them to be captured and enslaved by the woman they'd been heading to see, a geomancer who they had hoped would have answers for them. In Down, after all, power is about how many people you command and so this particular individual is keen to maintain the power she now has, including making one of our refugees (a young Sikh man called Dalip) fight for his life against various animals.

 

Meanwhile, Mary has been separated from them and finds herself an unlikely refuge and even more unlikely ally in Crows, a man from the 1930's who clearly knows more than he's telling. When she decides to search for the people she came through with, Mary discovers she has the same powers as Crows and possibly more, making her a dangerous rival for the geomancer's control. 

 

Down Station is definitely one of those books where I'm glad I've read it but I can't see myself reading it again. The world-building is good, with evocative descriptions all over the place, but the characterisation felt at times a little heavy-handed - if there was a drinking game for every time Mary's time in the care system crops up in her internal dialogue, my liver would have been screaming for mercy by the end of the book. Still, I'll probably be keeping an eye out for future books from this author so we'll see if anything else he writes gets me to fork out my 45p...