by Mike Wild
Review by Richmond Clements
I was not looking forward to reading this one. The previous Caballistics novel was very poor, and I wasn’t holding out much hope for this one. But is the latest book any better?
Could it possibly be any worse?
Initially, the answer to that question appeared to be ‘Yes’. The first couple of chapters did not fill me with hope. They consist of a couple of confusingly written action scenes, both of which left me bewildered as to what exactly had taken place. Something about a Nazi bunker, and then something on the London Eye… Ah yes- the London Eye, where the reader is subjected to a pretty annoying and completely unnecessary infodump lasting the best part of a page which reels off a load of pointless statistics about the structure.
So yeah, about this time, I was resigned to ploughing through this novel only because I had to. Maybe it was because I’d given up any hope of enjoying it, but soon after, I started to warm to this book. Yes, the characterisations are more hit than miss. Wild paints the team in broad, unsubtle strokes: Ness is violent, fancies Hanna and calls her a Dyke a lot. Verse is an ex-priest who plays computer games, Brand is boring, as is the fact Hanna calls him ‘Brainiac’ every other sentence.
At times though, Wild almost hits the mark. There are glimpses every now and then that say to me that this guy can write these characters, and perhaps by the third book (if there is one) he’ll be sufficiently confident with them to do so.
The plot is pretty good too. Yes, it is the old ‘on the run for a crime they didn’t commit’ cliché, but for the most part, it’s pulled off well. With a couple of notable bum notes. One is the sub-plot that Ravne gets involved with. While the idea is an intriguing one, for me it doesn’t seem logical, and apart from that, it reminded me of the Futurama episode where Nibbler got flushed down the toilet. The second one was one that really annoyed me though. And maybe I shouldn’t have started this review, because I’d forgotten about it until I started writing this! At the end of the first act, things are going to hell in a hand cart for the team, and Wild makes a bold move with one of the characters, one which surprise and shocked me. Yes, I know at the end of the book, ultimately everything will return to the status quo, but until then there was fun to be had! Unfortunately, this bold move was not nearly as bold as it seemed, with the weakest of reasons being given for its undoing. And it was really difficult to write about that without spoilering!
‘Hey!’ I here you say, ‘I thought you said you’d enjoyed this book?’ You’re right- I did; it was a lot better than Hell on Earth. Wild has cut back on most of the things that had annoyed me in that one- the puns, the pop culture references and Doctor Who nods are all kept to a minimum. I said I started to warm to this book after I’d given up hope on it. Perhaps I really started to like it because it was, in fact, not a bad read after all?
I’d like to think that was the reason.