Imagine a world in which everything bad that happened, every lie told, every sinful or hateful thought turned out to be on display. In fact imagine that every time this thought or event occurred smoke would seep out of your pores and leave an ashy trail of soot on your body and in your mouth. Well this all was possible in author Dan Vyleta’s Victorian Gothic novel based in London.
While the rest of the world may be modernized and seemingly sin free London, England is stuck in “a fog, rising out of the ground, wet and stubborn, resistant to the winds, covered by a film of dark scum.” For fans who want distant imaginary worlds like that of “Harry Potter” and for those who enjoy dark plot twists like that of “Game of Thrones” “Smoke” is the perfect book.
Thomas and Charlie, seemingly normal teenage school boys who are taught to suppress their smoke from a young age and fear it all at the same time, are on a mission. After Thomas gets into a fight with one of the school’s most prominent so-called “saints” he is told that, because of his brutal family history that is passed through his genetics, he is destined for a more gruesome fate of smoke and darkness than anybody else. Smoke is seen to appear on the body as a black or discolored mist that leaves an acrid smell on the body and clothes that leaves soot stains in its wake. The bigger the sinner, the dirtier the clothes.
After a trip to central London’s grimy, soot-filled streets leaves the teens feeling more disturbed than before the two venture to the rural countryside to escape and find out more about the origin of smoke in hopes of possibly curing Thomas. In their quest for discovery not only do they find the origin of smoke and realize that not all the world is affected by it but they come to learn of a plan brought on by one of the wealthiest families in England to try and stop smoke from occurring. Or so they thought. With the help of one of the oldest children, Livia, they attempt to find out more and escape the weird situation in which they have found themselves trapped between two crazed family members. The school’s perfect “saint” and son to one of the wealthiest families in England gets corrupted by trying to appear so sin free that his sins have the opposite effect making him go crazed with freedom and power. As he chases down Thomas, Charlie and Livia on their journey to the center of London while making multiple attempts on their lives the students must find a way to succeed in their plans to stop smoke from takin g over the world.
In this twisting tale of adventure and near escape “Smoke” conveys a bigger concept than meets the eye. To have smoke seep from your pores means that mistakes have been made and sins have been committed. Mistakes, however, are surely a sign of humanly qualities. The same humanly qualities in which love, hope and bravery can all be found. Smoking is not just a sign of corruption but more of free will. And boy, how free will is considered the worst thing to hit mankind in this book. However it forms the question of whether it would be a benefit to see sin play out physically on the body or is sin better left covered and known in secret? With an intensely complex plot that is emphasized and then re-emphasized at least more than a dozen times “Smoke” is not just a refreshing read but a complex one.
Should you read it?: Yes
For one thing props to the author for thinking of such a brilliantly creative story line complete with intertwining narratives but another for not making it dull despite the long wait to the finish. For those who are avid readers who can take on a sizeable challenge “Smoke” is well worth the fire that it brings to the imagination.