The story is a simple journey. Simon and his friend, the Tin Man, must journey through this world of ruin and decay to try and find a way home. We learn of the world with Simon. We are experiencing his journey. There is no base experience to leverage off. Everything is strange and foreign and this is what absorbs you as a reader. You need to learn what is over the next wall. You need to make sure that Simon and the Tin Man escape the current horror, only to face more down the path.
The prose is simple but this is befitting a ten year old protagonist and doesn’t get in the way of the story. No fancy similes or metaphors, just good old fashioned hardworking words that keep you moving through episodic adventures, each of which increases simon’s and our understanding, through to the grand finale.
Normally a journey story is about the milieu, about the world you are discovering, but this story is not just about the place, it’s about the characters’ growth as he explores the place, learning more about himself and what he can do. They two don’t get in each other’s way or feel tacked onto the story. They are naturally woven together and seeing the relationship between Simon and Tin Man blossom is a true treasure.
Joseph is either a Lee Child fan or has some intimate knowledge of suspense. On a macro scale and a micro scale. The major question is never actually answered (more on this later) but minor questions are continually posed and the answers are mesmerising and terrifying, made more terrifying by the nature that they are only half answers.
We leave the factory world with many, many questions, questions that need to be answered and this is the mark of fantastic world building. However the major question – does Simon get home? Is never actually answered. The epilogue provides some closure, but this reviewer had to ponder it for several days to try and glean what closure he could.
You’ll have to make up your own mind about the ending but you will definitely enjoy the journey to get to it.