Monday, 28 January 2008

The Borribles Go For Broke – Michael de Larrabeiti

Whilst the first book in the Borribles trilogy undoubtedly had its moments of violence, and was not backward in its use of appropriate language, it could be argued that this was in the context of a fairy tale. And in fairy tales (at least ones not eviscerated by the PC brigade) we expect gore, violence, and menace as much as we expect magic and love. With this second book, we see just how close to the real world the Borribles live and, as a consequence, the tale is both darker and more engaging.

Survivors of the Great Rumble Hunt reunite when one of their number receives a message that one of their number is in trouble. But this is no matter of an Adventure, because London has become an altogether more dangerous place. There now exists a special unit of the police known as the Special Borrible Group (or SBG for short) whose sole task is to capture Borribles and clip their pointed ears, turning them back into normal people – a terrible fate.

For anyone old enough to remember, the parallels between the SBG and the Special Patrol Group of the Metropolitan Police are obvious and no doubt deliberate. Indeed, the whole adventure could be seen as a damning indictment of the times in which it was written. Greed and exploitation, the use of violence to make people conform, rebellion, and the distorting effect that lust for money has on a society are all themes of the book.

Yet it is not a political polemic. It is an exciting and, at times, harrowing adventure with surprises and twists along the way. The adventurers’ loyalty to one another is tested; their bravery and integrity are put to the test. And they find some unexpected friends.

Second books in trilogies are often dull affairs. This one is not. It licks along at wonderful pace, stands firmly on its own two feet, introduces a whole new set of rich characters, and continues to be as cheeky and chirpy as bomb site full of sparrows.