The Leaping by Tom Fletcher
|Book Name:||The Leaping|
|Formatt:||Paperback / eBook|
|Release Date:||April 29, 2010 (UK) September 1, 2011 (US)|
Synopsis in 200-ish words
Like so many ex-students, Jack is currently working a crappy job while still trying to hold on to the kind of care-free life he enjoyed while at university, which means he is spending almost every night in bars followed by Mario Kart sessions with friends. He then meets a girl called Jennifer whom he falls for instantly. Unfortunately for him though, Jennifer isn’t really the commitment type and a few other guys also have the hots for her, including one of Jack’s colleagues who is just a bit too feral… It’s all good though, because Jennifer has just used her inheritance to buy Fell House up in the North of England – a place where Jack and Jennifer can escape to pursue some form of life together. So what do you do when you move into a new place? That’s right, you throw a house warming party, which is exactly what they do. The party quickly begins to get a little too wild though, and it becomes clear that the festivities have been gatecrashed by strangers and these strangers are more than just strange, they are also hungry…
When I first finished The Leaping, I was left with an odd, almost confused feeling. I knew I had enjoyed the book immensely but it simply wasn’t quite what I was expecting. It is billed as a horror and when you first pick it up, the blurb on the back makes you think that you’re going to be given a claustrophobic thriller with all the howling and maulings you would expect from a werewolf novel. This isn’t what I got though, and as I finished the story I must admit that I was a little disappointed. But bear with me here, because The Leaping played on my mind until suddenly it struck me; The Leaping isn’t really horror.
For me, The Leaping is actually a study in those twenty-somethings who were born in the 80s and the horror element of the book is more a soundtrack to set the strong personalities against. I appreciate this might sound like I’m stretching to find a home in my head for The Leaping, and maybe I am, but I loved it. So, I thought of all the books I might compare it to and ultimately the only book it truly reminded me of is the classic, American Psycho. Yup, for me, American Psycho tried to reflect a real world and show that horror sits in the cracks and blisters of everything we know, and The Leaping does the same thing. It is also arguably reflective of an entire generation and I believe that The Leaping is for the Mario Kart era what American Psycho is for 90s yuppy culture – come at it with this view you’ll find The Leaping to be a brilliantly haunting novel.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this IS American Psycho, but so many of the ideas and conventions serve to capture this generation much like Easton Ellis did. For example, Fletcher introduces his characters in much the same way as Patrick Bateman introduces his supporting cast. For Bateman, his ‘friends’ are defined by their suits – he will happily talk for a page on the cut of their suit and how a blemish on a tie or a shirt that doesn’t match the ensemble obviously means they’re losing it and should probably be fired. Fletcher uses a similar method but instead of suits, he introduces his supporting cast by their interests, so the next person to walk in to the room might love the music of Radiohead and spend too much time playing Resident Evil. This method also helped me truly ‘know’ the characters better than any physical description because I DO know these people, these people are my friends, I am these people. The peppering of pop-culture reallly impressed me too, like when Jack replies yes as ‘yis’ because that’s how Germaine from Flight Of The Conchords would sound. To many readers this kind of reference might cause a confused and furrowed brow, but to me, I now know this character inside out.
I love Fletcher’s writing style. The first half of the book is drawn out slowly, really sucking you in to the brain-numbing life that is all too real for most disillusioned uni graduates. From almost the outset, Fletcher carefully and slowly builds a sense of foreboding that barely lets up throughout the entire book. When the horror element kicks in the pacing does speed up quite dramatically, but it works nicely. The end did feel kind of rushed though, and there were perhaps a few too many long and tedious discussions which did slow the novel down in places but on the whole they don’t affect the reading experience.
In terms of the characters, I found them incredibly believable and, for the most part, written naturally with a meticulous attention to individual voice. However, there are points where things become perhaps too natural, too reflective of the real way people interact and as such could end up a touch flat. I’m inclined to say pretty much the same for the attitudes and values that Fletcher presents in The Leaping, as they are modern and real and the way that he tackles them are compelling but can occasionally feel too reinforced and hence become a little bit irritating. It is generally very strong though and written with such confidence that I wouldn’t at all be surprised if many points of the book are pretty autobiographical – in fact, I will bet you 50p Tom Fletcher has spent at least a few painful months stuck working in a call centre.
In regards to the werewolf and horror elements, don’t get too excited as apart from small splashes of weirdness that pop up sparingly, almost the entire first half of the book focuses on relationship-y, youthful angst. However, when scary shit gets going, it really gets going. In fact, it goes bloody bonkers!
Fletcher’s werewolves are fantastically twisted and the way they transform and wear a ‘hood’ is brilliantly gross. The horror element is written with great skill. What I thought was a particular testament to his ability to weave a good story is that even when things are going batshit-crazy, Fletcher still finds a way to keep things grounded by using the strong personalities of his cast to keep a fresh focus on what’s important to most twenty-somethings, even amidst the carnage. Also, to go back to the American Psycho comparison, like AP has that one scene that is guaranteed to make you nauseous (the rat one…), The Leaping has a similarly disturbing scene set in a barn. You won’t miss it…it’s pretty nuts.
On the whole, The Leaping is a refreshing take on a werewolf novel and gives a masterful snapshot of the banality of many a graduate’s life. Aside from a few blips, which feel like they could have been fixed in editing, it is a well considered and nicely polished piece of fiction. If you come to this book expecting a barrage of shocks and shlock then you will be disappointed, but take your time with it and you will be rewarded with an urban fantasy/horror that perfectly captures a generation.
The Bottom Line
The Leaping is a seriously cool and seriously messed up novel that expertly delves in to the minds of twenty-somethings while building and maintaining a haunting sense of foreboding that is tied-up well. This is American Psycho for the Mario Kart era and what Twilight could have been if it hadn’t been written for 10-year-old girls.