Welcome to the nbmagazine.co.uk stop on the blog tour for The Black Ditch by Simon J Lancaster!
Here’s a little info about the book:
Laurie Sterne feels like he’s been cut adrift in space. His father has been shot dead, caught in the crossfire of a gangland war that has also claimed his boss’s life. Laurie is a refugee who lost his adoptive mum years before and doesn’t know where he was born, let alone who his birth parents were. But he’s not alone in the world: someone is trying to kill him.This is London, 2050, a dumping ground for climate refugees and dissidents. Gangs rule, murder goes unpunished and the police make sure you can’t escape.In his struggle to stay alive, he finds an ally: his former boss’s secret daughter. But with the killer predicting his every move, is the man without a past being betrayed by the woman who seems to offer him a future?
And about author Simon J Lancaster:
Simon J Lancaster is the author of The Black Ditch, the first in the Laurie Sterne trilogy of dystopian future thrillers. Prior to writing novels he was a national newspaper journalist in London, as well as a music critic and private pilot. He has written short stories and plays and, after reading extensively about climate change, concluded that the fantasy gun-play of contemporary-set action novels would be the lived experience of our coming world.
And here’s Gill Chedgey’s review of The Black Ditch:
Offered as a dystopian novel showing a post climate change Britain, where London is a wall-less ghetto come prison for climate refugees and Birmingham has become the centre of government as sea levels rise, the opening sequences fulfil that promise and lure the reader in. The cover advises us that this is the first in a trilogy, (what self respecting dystopian novelist wouldn’t conceive of a trilogy – Hunger Games, Maze Runner , Delirium, Divergence – 😉 ? ) featuring Laurie Sterne so we know he and ourselves are in for the long haul.
However what follows is less than a dystopian novel than an action thriller featuring gangland wars in a bleak, unforgiving future metropolis. Dystopia is there but it’s a backdrop against which this bloody, violent and duplicitous adventure is played out. It’s a complex plot that requires the reader pay attention and keep track of the characters whose allegiances are sometimes confusing. The reader, like Laurie, is persuaded to believe one thing, but then, often painfully, the opposite is apparent.
Laurie, as a character, is what I like to call a ‘Houdini hero’. Against all the odds he summons envious strength to battle his oppressors and his many injuries to make it to the end of the novel. We know he will make it because this is but the first part of a trilogy but how is what absorbs us and requires us to suspend belief on occasions. You get to thinking that Laurie is some kind of paradoxical superhero but he doesn’t get changed in a phone box and he doesn’t wear his pants over his tights! No, his superpower is that he can see the future and see into minds. You might think that this would protect and support him, and it does to a degree, but, hey, we wouldn’t have a novel if he saw absolutely everything!
The depiction of London is cleverly done for it remains recognisable as the city we know today with the Tube trains and the areas and streets we might be familiar with but it is necessarily dark, dirty and sombre. There is little to uplift us. The city almost comes across as an additional character to thwart our hero’s intent.
Putting the action and the violence to one side you get to see that this is a fictional opinion of what might happen to our environmentally beleaguered world. As the first in a series I am keen to see these aspects developed in the future novels of this trilogy since it couldn’t be more relevant and pertinent.
Sometimes fiction is the perfect way to draw attention and raise a consciousness where drier, more turgid non-fiction tomes may lay dusty on the bookstore or library shelves. But if you take exception to blood and violence then this might not be the book for you but if you enjoy a fast paced, video game like action thriller with a point to make then you’ll devour this with turbo velocity.
It’s a debut novel and bears many of the hall marks of such a work, an exuberance of detail and an enthusiasm to offer an intense experience for the reader.
Gill Chedgey 3*
The Black Ditch by Simon J Lancaster
9781713173939 pbk Nov 2019