The Silver Child by Cliff McNish
The Silver Child is the first book in a fantastical dystopian trilogy. The series is called The Silver Sequence and tells the story of a group of children with unique powers. This aspect of powers is what drew me into the book when I saw it at the library. I read the jacket flap and I was really pulled into the potential of the book.
“Six children are changing, and no one knows why….All six are drawn to Coldharbour, a wasteland of garbage dumps. The children sense the approach of a sinister enemy. What is it? How will they face their strange shared destiny?”
The book starts off slow and then crosses into creepy. One boy is peeling off his own skin and another is caressing strangers with his “beauty”. This beauty expands into some weird, almost orgiastic situations leaving me weirded out and confused. As i reached the conclusion of the book I actually started to enjoy it more, and then it occurred to me, the whole narrative structure of the book is completely backwards. The way these strange children meet and understand each other is relatively boring. There is some ominous thing, a roar, an evil force driving them to band together. But if we started there, with them facing the roar and telling the story of their powers and how they met through flashback and back story it could be a much stronger book. As it is the whole first book is basically pointless, it is written to drive to the action of the second book. It tells the back story and actions of the characters in this really boring and over detailed way.
This book is a middle grade novel intended for a 9-12 aged audience, but the writing and emotions are just all over the place. The images are graphic and emotions overbearing. And let me repeat again, one character is peeling off his own skin. It was nauseating to read! Cliff McNish is a British author so there might be some issues of misunderstanding between the two dialects of English, but the boy who his caressing people with beauty and huddling down with little girls just overwhelmed me with inappropriateness. McNish started writing to make up stories for his daughter, and part of me can’t help wishing these stories stayed for his daughter!
The writing and story of The Silver Child is completely overwhelming with too many characters and too many points of view. The story races along and goes at a snail’s pace at the same time. I never could get a firm sense of what was going on. The wasteland of Coldharbour is a fascinating background to tell a story, but this story was not one particularly worth reading. The curious thing is that this book set up the second book so clearly I am very curious to see if THAT one is worth reading or if it is filled with the same confusing drivel.
The characters have compelling aspects, especially their powers, but they themselves are boring and hard to connect with emotionally. The book ends with a sort of false climax and the emergence of “the silver child” who is somehow relevant to combating the roar, which by the end of the book we still haven’t faced. The pinnacle of the book seems to forget about the roar for a good 30 pages to have this side climax that doesn’t seem relevant to anything except for some importance in the next book. I am curious to see where the next book starts and how all the information of the first book will inform the events of that story. Will the actions of the first book become more relevant through the reading of the second?
As of now, I would generally suggest avoiding this book at all costs. It is yet to be determined how much of a waste of time The Silver Child actually was, but since those thoughts are crossing my mind avoidance seems like the best advice. I am curious to know if someone out there has read and enjoyed this book. I am also wondering how and why it ended up on the dystopian list. Isn’t that list supposed to be a selection of the best YA dystopians? Or is it more of just a list of the history of YA dystopians, good or bad?
But curiosity has gotten the best of me and I will be reading the next book. So, stay tuned.