First there was Harry Potter, and then Twilight, Percy Jackson, The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Maze Runner, and so on. Please don’t write and tell me which ones are good, and which are bad, because my mind is made up, and really, the point is moot. What I am saying is that one overwhelming success begets dozens of others, so that the world of YA publishing, in particular, is as crawling with as many agents looking for The Next Big Thing as Seattle was before Nevermind by Nirvana had sold a thousand copies. To continue this mixed metaphor, for every Pearl Jam you get two or three Stone Temple Pilots, and dozens of Seven Mary Threes.
This brings me to Silver by Chris Wooding. It’s a solid novel, tense, and taut, if not wildly original. The prose is solid, and it has some moments or genuine frission; but to continue my theme of mixing metaphors, it seems to me like a promising rookie rushed up from AAA ball who can’t quite yet hit a breaking pitch.
The book is set in Mortingham, a very isolated boarding school. Some students discover insects that appear to be partially made of metal. Then things go slowly and steadily downhill as first animals, and then people start showing up , transformed into metallic monsters, and hell-bent on killing everyone who isn’t like them. Of course circumstances are such that there is no way to leave, or communicate with the outside world. In the best horrific fashion everything that can goes wrong does.
The cast of teens are varied in type: Tragic Loner, Bully, Queen Bee, The Girl in the Queen Bee’s Shadow, Nerds, etc. The Staff and teachers are also varied in type, with Popular Teacher, Jaded Mean Teacher, and Crabby janitor. The first problem I had with this book is that they were not varied enough in voice and personality, enough so that I had to keep looking back to my notes to see just whom I was reading about.
Now Mr. Wooding takes a calculated risk, I presume, in keeping most of the origin of this phenomenon of the living silver metal to himself, and for the most part it works. Sometimes, though, I had the feeling that perhaps he hadn’t quite figured it out yet, and didn’t want to tip his hand. That really didn’t bother me much. Plenty of good stories and novels leave such things unexplained, or untold, and often to great effect. The other problem I had with Silver was how much it felt like a book that was just raring to be a series. I don’t know that for a fact, but it sure felt that way to me. While there is nothing wrong with series I do have a problem with books that don’t seem to stand on their own. And while I like the ambiguous ending as much or more than the next guy, this one felt less like an ending and more like a cut-off point.