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Review: The Moscow Option by Jeremy Duns

The Moscow OptionThe Moscow Option by Jeremy Duns

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Say goodbye to your wife or husband, boy or girlfriend. Say farewell to your friends and family. Ring in sick to work. No, not because it’s the late ’60’s and you’re defecting to the Soviet Union…it’s because for The Moscow Option’s main character Paul Dark, it is the late ’60’s and he has defected to the Soviet Union and once you start reading, you won’t want to stop.

An old spy deserting to the Soviet Union in the late ’60’s? Not another one, you say, but wait – Paul Dark was once one of Britain’s brightest spy stars. Head of the British Secret Service no less. But he has defected, it is October 1969 and Moscow’s most high-profile traitor finds himself in one of their deepest dungeons. Helping the KGB ‘with their enquiries’ you could say. Suddenly, he is brought in from the cold and up to central Moscow…then down under again to a secret bunker. Where he finds all the regimes leading lights – Brezhnev, Andropov, etc, on a (nuclear) war-footing and wanting answers from Dark. The West has attacked one of the Soviet’s forward bases with chemical weapons and also sent a fleet of B52 bombers hurtling towards the eastern Soviet borders and the leaders want to know what the West’s response to their retaliatory attack might be and how they counter it. All fairly straightforward. Until Dark realises that not only do they think they can survive a retaliatory strike, but that they’re about to make a decision based on a mistake. Or is it a mistake? And, which side is telling the truth? And what about the Americans? (see what I did there? Well, you will if you read the book).

Dark has to make the Soviets realise their mistake before it is too late and they launch a Nuclear attack. And he has 12 hours to do it. By which time the Soviets will launch their own strike to retaliate for the strike they think is on its way. If he is to bring the world back from the brink of an extinction, he has to escape from Brezhnev’s bunker, cross Russia and head up to the Baltic between Finland and Sweden, where he knows he’ll find the answers. Because he was there in 1945. What he doesn’t know is, he’ll also find answers to questions about his own past, he didn’t know needed answers. What Dark finds out, casts new light on just about everything he has done and thought he was sure about – over the past 25 years.

To be fair, I thought the last third could be tightened up a little, when it does run a little out of steam while the time constraints are pushed to the background as it were. But that’s asking to eat the cake as well. For someone like me, old enough to remember Brezhnev and Andropov and that period of the Cold War, spies and spy stories, The Moscow Option is a tense and satisfyingly spy-thriller. A successful blend of John Le Carre and Robert Ludlum, I thought. A modern thriller set in the genre’s hey-day – when we spied on them and they knew that we knew that we knew that they knew. And, if you follow Jeremy on Twitter, which I can also recommend, you might just know it is partly set where he now lives. Moscow, or those Baltic islands? That you’ll have to read the book to find out.

I think you could, possibly, read this without having read the first two (Free Agent and Song of Treason). But I’m not going to recommend it. You need to have things in their proper place to get the most from the several revelations the book contains. And if you are left wanting more at the end – good news! On Jeremy’s Facebook page, he announced recently that there will be a fourth Paul Dark novel as soon as he’s bought another biro and a new exercise book.

Review: The Last Viking by Berwick Coates

The Last Viking

The Last Viking by Berwick Coates

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the story of how you really want 1066 to finish. After this battle – stop. Harold and the English win the battle of Stamford Bridge, see off the last Viking challenge. Nothing else happens. Everyone lives happy ever after.

If you’ve read anything about the 1066 period, about before or after the actual invasion, then you’ll know the bare bones of the story. And, if you know the bare bones, that’s ok. Because, as even the most arrogant of female historical fiction authors will surely admit (even of it is only through gritted teeth and with one of her many cats held over a hot fire), the bare bones of the story, is about all historians do know for sure. So if you know just a little bit, you’re pretty much up to speed. What you need to do then, is think about how it was 1,000 years ago. Remove yourself from the 21st Century and think about it. Who else only knew a little bit about what went on, was going on? Yup. People like you and me, the ordinary man and woman of England of course. We do forget sometimes, we need to be reminded by books like this, that people hadn’t much of an idea of what was actually going on. Not just in the other parts of the country, but in the next village often. I know they did travel more than we perhaps think, but think about it. No Newspapers with news only a few hours old, no TV or radio with live reports, no internet with live streaming and all the news and opinions available, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and immediately. No, if books like this (and the previous, The Last Conquest) do nothing else, they remind us of how it must have been on the ground – and higher up the system – for the people of the time. it’s like the phrase ‘the fog of war.’ They mean, I think, trying to peer through the clouds of information, misinformation, disinformation, maybes, bluffs and misdirection, to see the truth of the situation. Who is doing what and where and when and where they’re planning to be next and when. In the 11th Century, as this (and previous) book put over very well indeed – simply trying to find out where your enemy (and indeed, your friends, for that matter) are, was a huge problem. Especially if you were trying to fight off an invasion, or two. Or three. Let alone making any plans of what to do when you did find them. That’s probably why all the clever leaders down history, let their enemy come to them, at a place of their choosing. But finding out where your enemy is, reading between the lines of books like this, is a slow process of eliminating places where he is not. Even then, by the time a message has got back to you, you only really know where he was not, a few days ago. The way I read it, that’s what Mr Coates is trying to put over in his books. Though in Conquest he has William waiting for Harold came to him (mainly because he didn’t know where Harold was, or even if he’d won at Stamford Bridge. But then, Harold had a plan of where he would be, knowing the ground around Hastings and managed eventually, to let William come to him.

All that does raise the question of why Mr Coates has released the books in this order. The battle prior to that (not) at Hastings, after the book of that battle. I’m really not sure. I’m not sure though, if you would get more, or less, from reading them in the ‘right’ order. Maybe. Up to you. I had no choice, having already read ‘Invasion.’ If you haven’t read either yet, read The Last Conquest first.

To place the book in context with a couple of other books I’ve read about the period recently, it begins later than 1066 What Fates Impose, later than Shieldwall and earlier than James Aitcheson’s series and James Wilde’s Hereward books. Actually, we start off in Scandinavia, the land of Harald Hardrada, The Last Viking in question. Not with him, but amongst his people in some background to why and (possibly) how he managed to put an invasion-sized army together. He wasn’t, of course, the last Viking, as some of the people who went over with him, came back, but that’s mythology for you. Anyway, actually, apart from figuring in the background as at the start, one of the forces considering an invasion of England, Hardrada doesn’t feature in the book. Not a speaking part. The rest of his family, yes, but the ‘old viking’ himself, no. His deeds and character are sketched in by his wife and daughter, with whom the book spends a deal of time with, again, through their contacts with the Vikings at the start of the book as they prepare for and execute, their invasion plans.

The book though, is mainly over in England. It seems common knowledge amongst the peasants in the field, that the ailing King has indeed promised the throne to ‘The Bastard.’ And while William might be biding his time the other side of the Channel, the Normans are already in England. Edward’s been ‘knee-deep in Normans for years.’ And the English aren’t really sure where the King’s housecarls’ (his ‘sworn swords’) sympathies lie. Harold here is again presented as a very sympathetic figure. He could be presented differently, if a writer wished, going against what seem to be the previous King’s wishes and taking the throne for himself after familial manoeuvring into position, but in the books I’ve read, he is presented in a pretty sympathetic light. Here, he is intent on doing what is best for the country. Whilst he isn’t thrust unwillingly into the ‘job,’ he can clearly see that there are no other candidates that can do the job as well as him. None that aren’t Norman, anyway. His brother Tostig might – and does – disagree (as does their mother), much to Harold’s irritation, and he too wants to seize the throne. The view here, is that Tostig’s doing it for himself, Harold for the good of England. Hoorah! Harold therefore realises that he needs to be seen (eventually) by his own people, as doing the right thing for England. “‘Harold wants the throne, but he wants it delivered properly – open election, according to all custom and etiquette.’” Again, as I’ve pointed out in reviews for other books, note ‘election’ and ‘according to all custom.’ Interestingly, Mr Coates has Harold stating that he did swear an oath to William, but (as ‘1066 What Fates Impose’) under duress. Harold is also open about the validity of the oath and whatever it contained. “I know what I swore in that oath and what I did not, and so does William. It certainly did not include crowning him King of England. Besides, it was under some form of duress. And no oath under duress counts. Everyone knows that, never mind William.” Unfortunately, as we know, William wasn’t the understanding ‘oh yeah, you’re right, I’ll get me coat’ kind of person. Another interesting point was to cover why, if Harold knew William was delayed by bad weather and that Hardrada had arrived, he didn’t attack him earlier than at Stamford Bridge. At Fulford, for example. Here, Harold has a stomach bug, which delays his arrival, allowing Hardrada to come to Stamford bridge to exchange hostages, not realising that Harold and the English army was galloping up just the other side of that hill there. Hoorah!

‘The Last Viking’s Harold is sure, dynamic, clear sighted, sensible, certain of his own and therefore England’s success against whoever or all those who would attack her. We see what Harold might have been going through, waiting and preparing, not knowing from which end of the land an attack was going to come from first. But knowing that an attack was coming. I kept thinking underway, that maybe his intention was maybe of somehow presenting Harold as ’The Last Viking’ of the title, but it never came about.

All in all, from the little I know of the period, Mr Coates writes pretty much in line with the other histories of the period, non- and fiction-wise. The book’s narrative doesn’t have to travel near and far to gather the scraps of information. That is brought to it, partly by Harold’s spy master, by Welsh archers, by Scarborough Shire Reeves (remind you of anything?) and overheard gossip. He sets out the historical background for the period and his story in conversations and observations between ‘ordinary’ people. Well, not those out in the fields covered in shit, but those shall we say just outside the circles of power, and by not being on the inside, they can give it some – often earthy – perspective for us. We hear of Harold’s plans, his worries and his hopes, the background information coming from the ordinary people hearing rumours and having friends who have actually seen the fire-breathing dragons roaming the skies. As you do. Once in a while, some of the minor characters chatting about major events, can feel a bit too forced, a bit too obvious, but it generally works a treat.

The whole book is vivid and very readable, a good flow and structure and with plenty of sparkling dialogue – like people would discuss things, then as now. You and I would fit right in, it’s only time that separates us.

Oh, and, as ever – stay on for the Historical Afterword, really interesting.

Hey! I’m on Goodreads here.

Review: Cockroaches – Jo Nesbø

Cockroaches - Jo Nesbo

Cockroaches by Jo Nesbø

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It’s got to be said at the start that I have no idea why it’s called Cockroaches. What the significance might be, passed me by. I kept trying to think of something under way, but it wouldn’t come.

Anyway, it was more enjoyable – for me – than the first one (The Bat), though it is still tricky to see why Jo Nesbø, apart from him being Norwegian, has decided to write about a Norwegian detective. There’s nothing here that needs the ‘hero’ to be Norwegian (the fact that it is a Norwegian person’s death, in Thailand, that sparks it all off and therefore, for reasons I’ve either forgotten, or weren’t made clear, or were too dull, requires a Norwegian detective being sent out there, aren’t the strongest). There isn’t any particular nuance that only a Norwegian could bring to the investigation, no particularly Norwegian world-view that provides the key to unlocking the case, no 57 words for snow…or any of that. My idea for why it’s a Norwegian detective sent out first to Australia, then Thailand, are all to do with the publisher’s desire to have an international success with a Norwegian author, than – as stated above – writing a series of books exploring the uniquely Norwegian way of looking at crimes. Even what made him reasonably different last time out, being an alcoholic, isn’t brought out much here. He struggles a few times, but – thankfully for my enjoyment as I thought the alcoholic detective angle  has been done to death before, was intensely dull and didn’t add anything to The Bat – it doesn’t cause him any more trouble than a headache or two.

I also tried my best to think of why he’s set it in Bangkok. And here’s my best punt at it: Scandinavians love Thailand. No idea why. But they do, trust me, I live in Denmark and they all say they ‘dream’ of going there, if they haven’t yet. And all the ugly, social misfit blokes go there and come back with wives. I’ve seen them, here, in the airport last weekend, everywhere. I’m guessing Norwegians are the same. So the publisher said “to get sales here off the ground, so we can put ’The New Stig Larsson’ on the cover, we need to sell a few copies here – set it in Thailand!” Ker-Ching! Then the subsequent ones are set in Norway, sales are set fair in Norway and people outside of Norway, who’ve heard of Stig Larsson, pick up his books thinking he’s the new one.

So, Norway’s ambassador to Thailand is found dead in a Bangkok brothel with a knife in his back. Murder is suspected, as it would be, dead in a brothel, knife in back. They shine the Norway sign on a cloud and whaddaya know, but Harry Hole duly is the only one they can spare to send out there. You’re gonna read that and read ‘Hole’ as ‘…in the ground,’ no amount of Holé, as it was in the first one, or ‘Holler’ as they try here, is gonna change that. There’s some interesting pieces about adjusting to the climate and the Thai way of ‘doing things’ and then investigation follows the lines of the first one. Lots of clues, maybe clues and not clues. Getting no where. Nearly time to go back. Breakthrough. There are some nice turns of phrase here and there, though it is of course in translation. Though you never know how much has been lost, or gained, in translation. And I’ve not read it in Norwegian. I probably could do. I read and speak Danish and Norwegian is largely the same, just with different in pronunciation. Trust me on that.

My problem here was that the final explanation for whodunnit and why, was so unnecessarily convoluted, turning as it did on the ins and outs of high finance, that I kind of glazed over. I was scratting around trying to find something for my mind to catch hold of and never really did. The fact is, I’d say that JN knows it and knows you won’t have figured out the why, even if you have at least figured out the who, because Harry H has to spend several pages explaining it to us…erm, I mean explaining it to the Thai police chief. Always both bad sign and a sign of a writer unsure if his reader can be trusted with going along with it all. Though, the angle I thought it would take, it didn’t, so I’ve got to give it marks for surprising me. But how much, I don’t really know, as I couldn’t tell you now who the perpetrator was. Never mind.

It does then all end a bit meh. It could have done without the free association and the talking about something completely different. Then the epilogue – 2 ‘chapters‘ of it – is pointless. All it does do is take the edge off me thinking this was much better than the first I really must get hold of number three. Now I’m not so sure. More substance, less style required next time out.

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Review: A Traitor’s Fate – Derek Birks

A Traitor's Fate

A Traitor’s Fate by Derek Birks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We’re back in the 15th Century, England, the Wars of The Roses and our main man, Ned Elder now 23, is with the Yorkists – being a landowner, a Lord, from Yorkshire, ‘Yoredale,’ as he is and all. He’s still got problems up to his eyeballs. He’s still got a feud to deal with, a threat of death hanging over his head, a castle to get back to, a wife to rescue and very little money. But he is ‘rich’ where it really matters; he has a close family and a handful of faithful friends around him.

What ‘Fate’ does, is move away from the armies and the more formal set-pieces of the larger, nationwide struggle, between the forces of York and Lancaster. That is in the background, mostly. Book One, ’Feud,’ started with the feud (!) and moved outwards to involve the characters in the big picture. What ATF does and does very well, is to turn round and look back into its story, concentrating on what started the whole story rolling, that feud between the Elders, half-Elders and the Radcliffes.

Set in and around a part of England, Yorkshire, I know well (having lived there for 26 years), there are twists and turns, suspicions and deceptions, deaths being stared in the face and improbably rescues a-plenty. There are bloody battles on a grand scale and desperate skirmished in forests and fords. Nasty characters (mostly) get their just desserts, but well-loved characters also reach the end of the line, story-wise. It’s non-stop from the get-go, but with periods of reflection and a level of writing that is a forward step even from what was a fabulous first book.

I did think it was a bit long. It wouldn’t have suffered from being a little shorter, more compact. I can’t quite think what should have been cut out, maybe a bit of the to-ing and fro-ing in the forests towards the end – but then I’m not a writer, just a reader. I also thought that some of the – admittedly more minor – character’s deaths were unnecessary. For the story development, even long-term, or for the enjoyment value. Some writers seem to think almost that they have no control over where the story will lead and that the death of a well-loved minor character, is therefore unavoidable. I can understand this. And I can’t. Some writers seem to enjoy the killing off of some characters as occurring purely because it is pleasurable for them. It’s all very well liking something, liking doing something, like saying you just killed off a main character, or a minor loved one, trying maybe to shock your audience, certainly to tantalise them (into buying the next book). However, you have to, in the final end – and this is your job – take a step back and say ‘does it work?’  Not ‘do I like doing it?’ subjective, but ‘does it work?’ objective.

There were a few deaths here, that were avoidable. And that leads me to my other criticism – it was all bit unnecessarily bloody. It’s all very well and may indeed reflect the troubled and violent times and as one of the characters says, surely speaking to the writer; “You’re good at bloody chaos, I’ll give you that, my lord.” Yeah it happened, yeah it ‘has’ to go in, but – quite so often? So much? I’m with that it was bloody, that appealing things went on, but I don’t want to get battle fatigue just reading the book! The characters might have suffered, but the story wouldn’t have from leaving some of it out. Maybe that’s what could have been left out? Some of the hacking and the slicing and the wading through the pools of blood.

Through familiarity, with the characters, the story, the period and the author, it obviously can’t quite have the same punch in the face affect that the first (‘Feud’) had. It is to DB’s credit, that he doesn’t try and do the same again. There’s no doubt this is a middle of a trilogy (or fourology, actually) story, though, somehow, it doesn’t actually read like one underway. It is pretty self-contained and I do remember thinking it would be possible to read this, not having read the first – but why deny yourself that pleasure, eh? Then by the end of it, with all the threads hanging loose (dripping blood, probably), you’ll be ordering number three. Like me. And the fourth, what seems to the the final book in the saga, is on the old writing desk as we speak, probably while the good Mr Birks looks though his drawers for blotting paper. Not for ink blotches, for the blood.

The Rebels and Brothers series so far on Speesh Reads:

1. Feud my review

2. A Traitor’s Fate

Me, on Goodbleeds

Keeping it real – books are alive and, well…alive!

iPad BooksHere‘s more news that ‘real’ books are making a comeback. Well, coming a bit back after a heavy drop in sales following the introduction of eBooks, that is.

OK, for ‘more,’ read ‘some.’

Anyway, there’s a section showing research into how we read eBooks and how we read books made of paper, that is interesting. First because it means that someone somewhere Bookmarkpaid these people to do the research, instead of saying ‘get out of town!’ when presented with the idea that they should pay for research into how someone reads a book and, well, I for one agree with the findings.

I’m going to be keeping it ‘real’ this year, but more on that later.

You can check the article out on GeekWire here, if you didn’t click on it up there.

Review: The Bourne Ascendancy – Eric Van Lustbader

The Bourne AscendancyThe Bourne Ascendancy by Eric Van Lustbader

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I could be wrong, but I think this just might be the best Bourne, at least since Ludlum, erm…”failed to achieve his wellness potential” shall we say. It’s one that I’d certainly read again. Of course, some of the surprise would be missing, knowing what happens, but maybe a second reading would help me appreciate even more, the mastery of (especially) the final phase this book. There’s no way I can give it less than 5 stars. It deserves more, but there you go, them’s the rules.

The action takes place largely in the middle east and the middle eastern area. Bourne has actually been there a while. After finishing up the last story, he has been replacing his funds, by hiring himself out as what is referred to here, as a ‘Blacksmith.’ I’ve never heard of this before, but the book assures us that it is someone who hires themselves out to impersonate people in places where that other person would really rather, for whatever reason, not be. And he’s done really rather nicely, money-wise, thank you very much. So, that is why he finds himself at a top-secret meeting in Doha, impersonating a Syrian minister. He’s also passing on what he has learned at this meeting, to the current love of his life, Sarah, who just so happens to work for and be the daughter of, the head of Mossad. An unfortunate combination, should the Arab leaders who surround him find out, obviously. As the book starts and as Bourne, finds ‘himself’ in the middle of a hail of bullets, you can see the attraction of using a ‘blacksmith’ if maybe not quite see the attraction of being one.

The plot from then one, is…well, it’s complicated. But in essence, Bourne’s old Treadstone colleague Soroya Moore and her husband and child, are kidnapped by Bourne’s (latest) enemy, the terrorist leader, ‘El Ghadan.’ EG, uses Soroya and family, to blackmail Bourne into taking on the task of killing the President of the USA at a forthcoming conference in Singapore. There’s a lot, lot more involved of course. Old enemies and relationships surface, other people have other agendas and Bourne has to try and pick his way through. He doesn’t seem to have a plan, but the genius of his plan is, that he doesn’t seem to have one.

What Bourne really doesn’t have, is trust. That’s what is lacking on both sides. The US Administration, or the ‘dirty’ part of it anyway, who set up a ‘Bourne,’ don’t trust him now he’s not under their control. Don’t trust what they themselves have created. They clearly never expected him to become sentient. And Bourne, after 11 books filled with the US administration trying to kill him, doesn’t trust them. Still, Bourne doesn’t really trust anyone. He’s learned the hard way. He doesn’t trust some, intentionally and because those he has trusted, even if they haven’t subsequently let him down, have more often than not died as a result of contact with and trust from, him. He’s learned not to trust anyone, to spare them from the dangers he faces. “Bitterness squeezed Bourne’s heart. It was a fact, hard but true, that everyone who had ever mattered to him had been either exposed to mortal danger or killed.” In essence, that’s what causes the doubts, regret and any uncertainty, in the post-Treadstone Bourne.

The problem with making these sort of thrillers so up-to-date, is that they’re consequently so quickly out-of-date. However, being set in the Middle East, or having that main plot revolving around their hatred for each other down there – it isn’t going to risk being dated any time soon. ‘Not in your lifetime,’ as Chief Justice Earl Warren once said about something else. EvL though, is probably if not bang up to date on US thinking about the Middle East, at least anticipating, based on past history/fuck ups, future policy – should the lunatics take over the asylum at the next US Election. Think p189 and some in the back corridors of the US administration are thinking ‘intervention in Syria’ “We’re all but out of Iraq and we’ll soon be leaving Afghanistan. We have six hundred and fifty Billion Dollars’ worth of high-tech weaponry at our disposal. It’s high time we used it against a target that truly must be crushed.” Can’t argue with that. Maybe Syria have the WMD?

If I had to criticise one tiny little thing, it would be the name the International Terrorist El Ghadan has chosen for his terrorist group. When translated into English, it is ’The Tomorrow Brigade.’ That is a bit weak, I think. Maybe they should have stuck with referring to it as (whatever is) the Arabic version. Might sound a bit more menacing, a little less, well…like a group of hippies.

But what made the book, what made all the previous pieces fit, was the end. The end third maybe. Multi-layered, complex, surprising, shocking, fitting, satisfying. Thought-provoking. Worth the admission price, for me. I never saw it coming (but then, neither did Bourne, to be fair to me). Why? I’m not Arabic. I didn’t see it coming, but I see how he did it. I was lulled, due to my being European, into thinking ‘this, then this, then that.’ I was wrong. EvL was 100% right. Wow! Cannot wait for the next one! Isn’t that how it should be?

And yes, I did spot that the two US women just so happen to share EvL’s taste in TV shows and music.

Friends? On Goodreads? Go on then

Review: Apocalypse – Dean Crawford

Apocalypse - Dean Crawford

Apocalypse by Dean Crawford
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

We’re in Miami. Year, unknown. Now? Police called to a double murder. Mother and young daughter? Looks like murderer has just rung the detective. If it is the murderer, he knows what is happening. And what will happen. He tells them to contact an ‘Ethan.’ A bounty hunter, currently in Chicago. He’s sent to the crime scene. Then taken on-board the investigation, which becomes the province of the US secret people – and they know someone can see into the future and, well, it all goes downhill from there.

Well, not quite ‘from there’ there’s more. What if I tell you, that someone who is the son of a scientist involved in the development of the US atom bomb or something, seems now to be a fund-raising conservationist involved helping after natural disasters and has, oh dear god…harnessed a black hole in an undersea lab…I know… Mix in some Bermuda Triangle stuff, some race against time stuff and the non-appearance of James Bond and we’re good to go.

It isn’t quite in Clive Cussler territory. There’s no one called ‘Dirk’ for instance. However, consider, if you will: “I want to find and retrieve it before the damned media start swimming around like hyenas looking for corpses.” Swimming hyenas? Bong! “…a realization thundered through the field of her awareness.” Bong!! “…all you’ve done is stand on his coat tails.” Bong!!! Then, if you’ve read other reviews by me, you’ll know my scepticism about people – normal people – ever talking about their ’soul.’ They don’t. Outside cheap thrillers and Deep Purple live albums. But now we have a guy whose fiancé’s disappearance “…had left in its wake a chilling vacuum in his soul…” Is that something you’d tell a mate? Would you take that to the doctor? Would a friend, acquaintance, or even a passing stranger, say that to you? Bong!!!! Off the scale!!!

I admit missed how they deactivated the black hole in the end, if they did. I can’t quite think why I missed it – either I looked out the window at that point, or he didn’t actually write how they got shot of it amongst all the bangs and water and whathaveyou. You knew it was all gonna end either with him dying in a huge explosion which also destroys all his ‘work,’ or being led away in handcuffs, muttering about it having worked, ‘if not for you meddling kids.’ But, in the final reckoning, there’s no getting away from the fact that the good guys escape after being in the same room as/dragged into a black hole! Not a theory I’d like to’ve run past Carl Sagan.

As Dean can’t, or isn’t a good enough writer to, work the time-travel mechanics in to the story naturally, he has the characters being lectured to, disguised as a conversation, by an expert at Cape Kennedy, or whatever it’s called. You’ve seen it before in Dan Brown books, in other middling thrillers; “Hold on, I don’t understand…” “It’s really very simple…” (then 5 minutes/5 paragraphs uninterrupted talk on how speed of light etc works). “So, let me see if I’ve got this right…” (Regurgitate in slightly different form what just been told, adding a couple of things previously seen on Nat Geo channel). “That’s incredibly astute of you…” (as is said here to establish someone’s ‘astute’ credibilities, which will clearly come in handy later on in book for devising ingenious/unlikely way out of impossible situation) and on with Physics, Module 1 – explanation, question and answer session for 10 pages. Forgetting that at the start of the section and a general theme for the story is “HURRY! WE HAVEN’T GOT MUCH TIME!!!” “Yes, but I’m gonna assume all the readers are incapable of taking in anything other than a straight-forward, easy to digest, plain as the nose on your face, assume our readers are idiots, explanation.” Over several pages. Like when the runaway scientist only has, by his own admission, minutes to live, he embarks on a thirteen-week correspondence course in advanced quantum physics. What he is actually doing, apart from irritating me, is surgically removing any tension. Why don’t writers called Dan or ‘Dean’ or their editors, see this?

It is books like this that remind me why I like books simpler (on the surface). Books where problems are set up and solved by the characters figuring it out based on their knowledge and character, rather than money having been thrown at it before or after. I’d rather have an old geezer trying to work out why a chalk mark on a wall is where it is, than a yacht big enough to land a helicopter on and a private army dressed in identical jumpsuits.

In a nutshell, a mixture of Denzel Washington’s Deja Vu, that future crime film with Tom Cruise and the James Bond one with the world media-mogul person, ‘Carver’ was it? Shaken, not stirred, into pure bollocks.

Be my friend on Goodreads – What you got to lose?

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