The Servants Hardcover – 1 Apr 2008
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Talk about a protean career! The writer Michael Marshall, one might think, already has more than enough strings to his bow: As Michael Marshall Smith, he created some of the most inventive and quirky of cutting-edge science fiction novels; dropping the ‘Smith’ (as Michael Marshall), his bestselling crime fiction is among the most technically adroit and pulse-racing in the field. But here he is with yet another hat on – and as M M Smith, he proves to be just as accomplished a writer for younger readers. The Servants is an absolute spellbinder: a wonderfully engaging yarn that will rivet the attention of both younger readers and those adults lucky enough to pick it up.
11-year-old Mark is well aware – even at this tender age – of the fragility and insecurity of life. After his move from the bustle of London to the more bracing seaside air of Brighton in the winter, he finds he is not enjoying himself. His mother’s illness is distressing, and, worse, he cannot stand his new stepfather. The house he lives in is a strange place, with, what’s more, a strange elderly woman in the basement. The sands of reality are about to shift for the vulnerable Mark, and he may have to rely for help on some people who may not even be real.
Smith’s mastery of the fantasy genre is, thankfully, a skill he has not allowed to wither on the vine, and this is intelligent, allusive writing; both disturbing and evocative. Let’s hope MM/Michael/Marshall/Smith finds time to revisit the genre in between his flesh-creeping adult thrillers. --Barry Forshaw --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
‘Superb, offbeat contemporary fantasy … Smith portrays a child's irrational anger with devastating accuracy, and Mark's visits to the surreal and intensely symbolic world of the servants are powerfully depicted’ Publishers Weekly, starred reviewSee all Product description
Top Customer Reviews
Michael Marshall Smith is known for his gritty science fiction and horror novels and short stories. I'm a fan and have read quite a few of his novels, such as Spares (plagiarized into the crappy film The Island) and Only Forward, and his collection of short stories, What You Make It, is one of my favourites. So I was interested to see how he would approach young adult fiction, and of course, he does it deftly and with finesse.
Mark is a young boy of 11 who has just moved to Brighton from London with his mother, who is sick with a mysterious illness, and his new stepfather, David. Mark resents his stepfather for moving him away from bustling London to the ramshackle, old house painted Brunswick Cream. An old woman lives in the basement flat, and she has a key to a door that he unlocks, where the servants are.
I would really like to get the opinion of a young adult who has read this and see what they think. There's a few layers of symbolism that is both blatantly obvious and yet subtle. Smith investigates the themes of family ties and family responsibility. The writing is deft and sparse, and the characterization is excellent for being such a short book. Michael Marshall Smith has turned out to be a talented young adult writer as well.
This book is about a young boy called Mark. He's eleven years old and is desperately trying to come to terms with the fact his mother has now married another man, David, who Mark resents. He feels that David is an intruder in their lives who is trying to come between him and his sick mother. They are living in Brighton, a long way from the London that Mark sees as his real home, and his real father. Mark discovers an old woman lives in the basement flat under their house (the old servant's quarters) and she has an interesting and spooky secret she wants to share with him that will open Mark's eyes and change the way he thinks forever.
I really liked this book. It is insightfully told from Mark's eleven year old point of view: how he feels about being taken away from his old life and thrust reluctantly into a new one and how he interprets everything his stepfather does as a plan to annoy him and come between him and his mother.
This is a traditional kind of ghost story but is also touching and very well written, keeping you interested right to the end.
From the outset it's pretty obvious there's something terribly wrong with his mother who seems content to sit at home all day staring silently out at of the living room window at the vast Brighton seascape. Within weeks of David coming into their lives, Mark's mother had started to get ill. David casually informed Gerald from the start that his mother needs rest and quiet, and that for the time being she can't even consider stepping outside the front door to go for a walk or have dinner in one of the many restaurants that pepper the promenade. Left to his own devices, David is forced to explore his surroundings, similarly repelled by David's heavy-handed attitude towards him while also concerned about his mother's failing health. Then a fall through his bedroom window jumpstarts a series of events that force him to question what is real and what is not.Read more ›
MM Smith has previously written novel length science fiction under his full name Michael Marshall Smith, and conspiracy thrillers under the shortened name Michael Marshall. Last year's excellent 'The Intruders' - containing supernatural elements - was also published under the latter moniker.
Now there's another variation on his name - MM Smith - which he's used for this modern-day ghost story. Michael himself has commented that this latest book is more akin to his excellent far-ranging short fiction than his longer stuff - hence the new name.
Enough of my preamble - is this book any good? Well, yes. It's beautifully told in clear, simple prose and it won't take the reader long to finish it.
Mark is an 11-year-old boy who's moved down to Brighton from London with his mother and new stepfather. Naturally he hates his step-dad, because like most boys of that age he clings to an idealised view of his birth father, that no other man could compete with.
Once in Brighton, Mark leads a loner's existence, practicing his rudimentary skateboarding skills, until he meets the old lady who resides in the basement of the big property he lives in. She shows her rooms to him, reveals what lies behind an old locked door, and explains that the whole basement forms the old servants' quarters. Immediately Mark's curiosity is piqued. At this stage his mother's health is also deteriorating alarmingly...Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Iwas disappointed when I finished the book. It had a great storyline but ended too soon. I felt that more could have been written. Apart from that it was an enjoyable read.Published 21 months ago by Barbara Gilbert
I love M.M.Smith books and to have this on Phone is a delight. Er seven more Word required er dunno...Published on 20 Sept. 2013 by michael taylornew
This book had been on my TBR pile for what I'm sure was a number of years, but was always one of those put down to "maybe another time" when choosing a book to read. Read morePublished on 16 July 2013 by simon211175
The Servants is the story of an 11-year-old boy, his mum and stepdad. They've moved from London to Brighton into a house with an old lady living in a tiny flat in the basement. Read morePublished on 26 April 2013 by Amazon Customer
Amazing quality amazing price, perfect decription, made my fiance a very happy man, he read the book in 3 days after searching for this book since 2009.Published on 22 Feb. 2013 by nibbler
The Servants has long been a book I wanted to read. As with other reviewers here; my favourite books were from MMS' early years (Only Forward, Spares, One of Us, What You Make It)... Read morePublished on 14 Sept. 2011 by Belochka
This is a hard book to categorize. Part fantasy, part straightforward domestic drama, I found it straddled the two genres with slight unease. Read morePublished on 10 Mar. 2011 by Deborah Swift
Mark, his Mother and his Mother's new husband all move down to Brighton after his Mother becomes ill. Read morePublished on 1 Nov. 2010 by Miss Victoria Ramage