Lachlan (pronounced “lock-lan”) Smith is your typical tween boy in present-day America, and his circumstances are easy for kids his age to relate to. He’s just moved to a new town, he’s starting a new grade at a new school, he’s trying to make friends and deal with bullies. All the while coping with a butthead older brother (who offers Lachlan, at best, benign neglect), a single mom, and a rundown home that his family recently purchased from a foreclosure sale.
“Lock” (his preferred nickname) has two issues uncommon to other boys. First, his father was killed in action not long ago in the Middle East. Second, his bedroom closet has a portal to the future. And that not-too-distant future does not include the human race.
Such is the premise of Eastern Shore author Paul Briggs’ Locksmith’s Closet, the first of a planned trilogy of young adult novels. Aided by his neighbor and schoolmate Gary Thalberg, Lock repeatedly goes through the portal to explore the unfriendly future, picking through the ruins and avoiding wild animals, to learn what happened—and how, if possible, he can prevent it from coming to pass within (as he learns) a relatively short 15 years.
The novel is crafted with great skill and much care. Lock is a reluctant hero, grappling with his emotions, which Briggs effortlessly, authentically conveys. The other characters are well-defined, some of them quirky and/or endearing. The future Earth (a la Life After People) that Briggs depicts is appropriately disturbing, even more so when Lock and Gary discover evidence that some…thing roams the area, dining on bears and other large animals. Ulp!
Between adventures in the future world, Lock has to deal with typical middle-school drama; mandated visits to the guidance counselor (where he discusses his problems, but does NOT want to reveal the secret portal); lingering issues with a troubled boy he used to hang out with in his old town; and a particularly inept (but nevertheless persistent) adult antagonist who apparently knows of the portal—and wants to get to it for reasons unknown.
It is in the daily life of the world of today, around the middle of the novel, where Lock seems to take his eye off the problems of the future to deal with the here-and-now. While it’s perfectly in character, it does take some steam out of the story. The multitude of minor characters don’t always enhance; sometimes, there are too many of them “on stage,” particularly at the climax. Briggs also tends to “tell” rather than “show” what his characters are feeling.
These missteps are but quibbles. As the book is the first of three, the reader does not get a lot of answers—indeed, as this installment concludes, the riddle only deepens. I will eagerly wait for the next trip through the portal, to see more of the harrowing future and what Lock will find there.
Parents, there are no age-inappropriate subjects or language used in this book, and the violence is either implied or restrained; there is some gore—if Locksmith’s Closet was a film, it’d be rated PG.
I highly recommend Locksmith’s Closet for young adults (ages 12+) as well as adult readers of science fiction. Locksmith’s Closet is available as an e-book on Amazon.
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