R J Tomlin
Self-published, 386 pages
Review: Thom Day
The Transition, RJ Tomlin’s most recent young adult offering, centres on Rume, an “elite” upperclassman in the Nethertower a week before he turns eighteen. The Nethertower houses hundreds or thousands (the book doesn’t make it clear, and Rume isn’t a very reliable narrator) of children aged between eleven and eighteen. Upon reaching their eighteenth birthdays, the elites undergo “the Transition” and join society outside. Before this, the kids work to meet their daily energy quota on VR-augmented exercise bikes. The Nethertower operates like a capitalist training utopia: the kids are told that working hard will earn them credits for the outside world, and their work will mould them into the individuals they are destined to be. Trying to leave, communicate with the outside world, or failure to work are all strictly forbidden, and all elites must complete the Transition.
Rume is nervous in the lead-up to his Transition, and secretly keeps emails sent by his father. A final mysterious email leads to him attempting to escape the Nethertower with four of his friends on the eve of his Transition.
The rest of the book is an action-adventure as Rume and his friends try to discover what the Nethertower really is, who made it, and why. Along the way they fight off cannibals and zombies, meet new friends, and help the Resistance in their war against CARMA, all while Rume tries to figure out why his past seems inextricably tied to the fate of this new world.
The book is fast-paced and a real page-turner, the story ticks over with some tension. There are some genuinely enjoyable twists and surprises as well, which kept me wondering where the story would go next.
Unfortunately these weren’t enough to cover the stilted dialogue and thinness of the landscape, and there were more than a few times I felt like giving up and putting the book aside. Rume seems to be experiencing the Nethertower for the first time along with the reader, rather than having grown up there. Baddies appear “out of nowhere” and the plot moved in one direction before abruptly veering off without explanation. The overall feeling is that this is an unfinished draft or a film treatment, rather than a completed novel. The characters come from the stock Young Adult Novel section and say the stock lines and do – for the most part – the stock things. The twists are very good and are the redeeming elements of the book, but they can’t cover the plot holes, the cardboard landscapes, the unbelievable dialogue. The final reveal is inspired but ultimately disappointing, and left me with more questions than it provided satisfaction.
This is a young book by a young author; Tomlin is 21 – barely older than Rume himself. He has four books under his belt already, and has just completed a one-man 100-day marketing campaign in Leeds city centre. He’s passionate about writing and has strong reviews on Amazon. His enthusiasm shines through in The Transition; and while I may not be the first to pick up The Transition 2, I do think Tomlin is one to watch.
Originally published in Shoreline of Infinity Issue 5.