This is one of my favourite books and I have lost count of the number of times that I've read it. The thing that made me want to read it in the first place is the fact that it's set on the London Underground. I am a self-confessed tube nerd, I love everything about it and spend most of my time on trips to London on the Underground and I'm not ashamed to admit it. Most people go to see the sights but I've seen them enough times. I just love everything about the Tube.
The storyline here involves Andy who bet his tube geek friend Rolf that he could travel the whole system (not entirely true as this book was written in 2001 and so Andy misses out a lot of the Jubilee Line and the whole of the DLR [which I love]) in 24 hours. At the end of the 24 hours he needs to meet Rachel so they can catch the Eurostar to Paris.
Unfortunately the majority of the characters bar one are pretty weak. The best character for me and the star of the book is Brian. Brian is a tramp who Andy bumps into at his first station of the day and Brian sort of latches onto him and follows (and eventually helps) him throughout the day. At first Andy thinks Brian is a plant by Rolf but eventually comes to trust him and realise that it's better to do the system with someone else than alone. And of course for the reader it is much better for Andy to have somebody with him as it would be quite boring reading about him travelling around by himself. I didn't like the character of Rachel and the character of Rolf sounding revolting. And as this is supposed to be one of my favourite books I didn't even like the main character, Andy much. However the main character for me is the tube and that is what makes me keep wanting to read this book.
Unfortunately for Andy he picked the worst day to travel the tube. He runs into the most annoying and unbelievable situations that you can't help but laugh. In all the times I have travelled the tube I haven't once had a delay, in fact a train has always arrived within seconds or minutes of me arriving at the station. Of course this would be different if I lived there and travelled every single day but for the sake of this book Andy had the absolute worst luck he could have had.
The ending of the book felt quite rushed but it was fairly satisfying. I loved the chapter with Brian at the end and I'd actually have liked an Epilogue which perhaps looked at the characters years down the line. Anyone who has been to London has seen a tramp of some sort and most people including myself pass them by without a second thought, but a lot of them are just like Brian. Normal people who have been dealt a bad hand, it is easier to end up like that than some people are aware of and reading about a tramp as nice as Brian makes you look at them twice.
Overall probably not a five star book and if you don't have even the slightest interest in the Underground then this probably isn't the book for you but I always enjoy reading it, especially before a trip to London.