This is the first of my “25 Books” proper which I started to read on the 7th Jan 2009. I finished it on the 10th which was actually quite a long time since it’s fairly short. But that shouldn’t mislead you, I enjoyed it a lot, it’s just I was away that weekend.
Firstly I should say that “M.M. Smith” is yet another pseudonym for Michael Marshall Smith who writes fantasy/sci-fi under that name and crime fiction as Michael Marshall. I haven’t read any of the later because it’s pretty violent and I’m a little squeamish, but M. tells me it’s very good. I did enjoy his first book Only Forward which has a very particular (and funny) voice and is very inventive.
It was interesting to read this immediately after Slam because it’s also a book in which the main character is a boy, in this case he’s 11. Again it raises the question of whether it’s aimed at readers of that age. Again I think it’s written in a way they could follow but it’s also perfectly accessible to older readers too.
The Servants follows the story of Mark, his mum and stepdad, David. They’ve moved from London to Brighton. They’re living in a big house owned by David. In the basement there’s a tiny flat in which an old lady lives. Mark befriends her and she shows him something very interesting and special.
I really liked this book. I liked it because the writing, the setting and the story are very simple. I tend to like things that are simple, classic and unfussy and this has that feel. There are really only 4 characters, most of the action takes place inside the house and it’s all very simply written.
I also liked it because it does something that I admire. It lets us see through the eyes of a character things that that character himself does not see. To me that’s clever writing. It means that we see David as a bit more sympathetic than Mark does, which makes Mark in danger of seeming a little brattish. However he mellows and without giving anything away, he eventually sees it too.
I read something somewhere about it being a kind of ghost story but I don’t think it’s quite that. However it does have the atmosphere of a ghost story and there is a fantastical element to it.
The key to living anywhere is to know how to live there – just ask any snail.
9/10 – simply written but moving story.