Summary and book reviews of Smoke by Dan Vyleta

Smoke

by Dan Vyleta

Smoke by Dan Vyleta
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    May 2016, 448 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2017, 448 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts

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About this Book

Book Summary

"Smoke is an addictive combination of thriller, fantasy, and historical novel, with a dash of horror. It's chilling and complex and amazingly imaginative." - Marilyn Dahl, Shelf Awareness

England. A century ago, give or take a few years. 

An England where people who are wicked in thought or deed are marked by the Smoke that pours forth from their bodies, a sign of their fallen state. The aristocracy do not smoke, proof of their virtue and right to rule, while the lower classes are drenched in sin and soot. An England utterly strange and utterly real.

An elite boarding school where the sons of the wealthy are groomed to take power as their birthright. Teachers with mysterious ties to warring political factions at the highest levels of government.  Three young people who learn everything they've been taught is a lie - knowledge that could cost them their lives. A grand estate where secrets lurk in attic rooms and hidden laboratories. A love triangle. A desperate chase. Revolutionaries and secret police. Religious fanatics and coldhearted scientists. Murder. A London filled with danger and wonder. A tortured relationship between a mother and a daughter, and a mother and a son. Unexpected villains and unexpected heroes. Cool reason versus passion. Rich versus poor. Right versus wrong, though which is which isn't clear.

This is the world of Smoke, a narrative tour de force, a tale of Dickensian intricacy and ferocious imaginative power, richly atmospheric and intensely suspenseful.

THE TRIP

They make him wait for his punishment.

It's laundry day the next morning and, having no choice, Thomas throws the sodden, smelly shirt into the basket, along with the week's underwear and bedclothes. The Soot stain has faded but not disappeared.

It is no consolation to Thomas that many a schoolboy adds his own stained clothes to the growing pile. Each transgression leaves behind its own type of Soot, and those versed in such matters can determine the severity of your crime just by studying the stain's density and grit. This is why no classes in Smoke and Ethics are scheduled for laundry day: the master, Dr. Renfrew, spends his morning locked in his office, rooting through boys' underclothes. The list of those found guilty of "Unclean Thoughts and Actions" is displayed in a glass cabinet before lunch, so that each schoolboy may learn what punishment has been levied on him. Two days of dining-hall service; three pages that have to be copied from the Second ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Vyleta's London is pitch-perfect Dickensian in tone as well as subject matter, with subtle critiques of class and imperialism and more overtly in an encounter with unionizing coal miners. These elements are well-incorporated nods but Vyleta's vision is entirely original and stunning in its portrayal. Vyleta's story is all his own — a remarkably riveting, grim, but hopeful novel, that defies typical genre assignations. Hope for a sequel may be wishful thinking, but it is a compliment of the highest order.   (Reviewed by Lisa Butts).

Full Review (692 words).

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Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

A terrific, suspenseful tale that could definitely cross over to the teen audience. Sequel, anyone?

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Dickensian in its imaginative scope and atmosphere, Smoke will have readers glad that a sequel is already underway.

Booklist

Starred Review. Is it natural to think "bad" thoughts, and if so, does that make it OK? Do people behave morally out of true goodness or to prove to others how much better they are? Full of otherworldly adventure yet chilling in its realism, Smoke lures readers into considering these questions about society and ourselves

Author Blurb Robin Sloan, bestselling author of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
Dan Vyleta has conjured a rich and surprising counter-history, an England saturated with a substance so potent and evocative it vaults instantly into the pantheon that includes the Dust of Philip Pullman, the soma of George Orwell, and the opium of Amitavh Ghosh. Smoke is enthralling.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

London Fog

Vyleta's Smoke draws inspiration from the very real issue of smog in Victorian London, the result of fog off the Thames river mixing with smoke from early industrialization and coal-burning fires in homes. This is hinted at when the novel's young protagonists are briefly hidden in a coal mine before making their way into the city. Making the connection even more explicit, the book's cover features Monet's atmospheric painting, Houses of Parliament: Effect of Sunlight in the Fog.

Monet's Houses of Parliament: Effect of Sunlight in the Fog Historically, London fogs can be dated all the way back to the 13th century. Legislative attempts by authorities over the years to curtail — or even entirely ban — the burning of coal were ignored due to lack of any effective alternative. As ...

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