I just finished listening to the audiobook Smoke by Dan Vyleta, read by Allan Corduner, and I must say it is one of my favorite “listens” of the year. There is nothing better than the perfect pairing of a great book and a talented narrator who can capture the essence of a story.
Smoke takes you to Victorian London and its surrounding countryside, but with a twist to the historical London we may be familiar with. In this alternative England, people give off smoke. Imagine a world where any indiscretion, no matter how small will cause a person to smoke. The bigger the offense, the darker the smoke. All of your infractions, from a small fib to an indecent thought to theft and worse will be displayed by your smoke for all to see. The smoke leaves soot that can be analyzed to determine your misdeed.
The story begins at an elite boarding school not far from London and focuses on 2 main characters, Thomas and Charlie, who, even though they are best friends, are of very different temperaments. From here story moves to London and on to the estate of Thomas’ Uncle. At every turn new characters are introduced and the complexity of the story increases.
Dan Vyleta quotes Charles Dickens throughout the book and explores many of the same themes that Dickens addressed in his books: social injustice, poverty, greed, the powerful taking advantage of the poor, and the vulnerability of children. Vyleta also explores the role of religion, science and technology in society and how those in power can use and bend all three to their own benefit.
Smoke is a thought-provoking book with plenty of thrill, chills, mystery and suspense to keep you glued to the book until the very last page. I’d describe the book as gothic/historical fiction/low fantasy/suspense. The main characters are teens which should make this book as appealing to teens as it is for adults.
If you’re a fan of Dickens or the Brontë sisters and like a bit of fantasy thrown in just for fun then get your copy of the audiobook as soon as possible, wait for a cold, dreary day, preferably in October or November and curl up in front of a roaring fireplace (virtual fireplaces work just as well) with a steaming cup of tea or hot chocolate (both of which make frequent appearances in the book) and savor the experience.